Hanford - Washington
In 1989, production stopped and work shifted to cleanup of portions of the site contaminated with hazardous substances, including both radionuclides and chemical waste.
The operations at Hanford created one of the largest and most complex cleanup projects in the U.S. Weapons production resulted in more than 43 million cubic yards of radioactive waste, and over 130 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. Approximately 475 billion gallons of contaminated water was discharged to the soil. Some of the contaminants have made it to groundwater under the site. Over 80 square miles of groundwater is contaminated to levels above groundwater protection standards.
Located in southeastern Washington State, Hanford is a 586-square-mile site created in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project (America’s effort to develop the atomic bomb).
Operation of the plutonium-producing facilities continued beyond World War II through the Cold War, and a total of nine nuclear reactors were eventually constructed along the Columbia River.
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Map of Hanford site area (click for detailed view)
Additional cleanup sites (Click on the triangle to expand or collapse a heading and see more information)
Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility
The Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility (ERDF) is the primary disposal location for low-level/mixed contaminated soils and contaminated rubble from cleanup projects on the Hanford Site. The ERDF opened in 1996, and by 2001 it had received over 1.81 million metric tons (2 million tons) of such nuclear debris. Nearly 150 trucks, carrying about 2,700 metric tons (3,000 tons) of waste, enter the ERDF on a typical day. The total waste received through 2007 was over 6.4 million metric tons (7 million tons).
The 600 Area consists of Hanford’s roads, railroads, fire station, an old concrete batch plant site, contaminated storage vaults in the east end of Gable Mountain, the former town sites of Hanford and White Bluffs, the Hanford meteorology station, the Wahluke Slope, and the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve (including Rattlesnake Mountain). There is little contamination in the 600 Area, except in the groundwater beneath large stretches. This groundwater contamination originated from the 200 Area. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory is located just north of the 400 Area and is designed to detect gravitational waves originating from black holes and other astronomical phenomena. LIGO is a scientific collaboration of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) funded by the National Science Foundation. An area along the river and north of the 300 Area is leased by Energy Northwest for operation of a commercial nuclear plant called the Columbia Generating Station.
White Paper Summary (Click on the triangle to expand or collapse)
The purpose of the paper is to promote discussion of crosscutting issues that affect efforts to clean up the numerous waste sites, decommissioned facilities and groundwater in the central part of Hanford contaminated with radionuclides and other hazardous substances. The paper was transmitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with copies going to tribal nations and the Oregon Office of Energy [add link to letter]. Lively discussions at the Oregon Hanford Waste Board meeting at The Dalles, Oregon in January 2008 and at the Hanford Advisory Board River and Plateau Committee meeting in Richland, Washington in February 2008 demonstrate that the paper is serving its intended purpose. There has been some back-and-forth on the subject of capping and its description in the document. The white paper is not meant to overemphasize the role of capping as a remedy or portion of a remedy for any of the waste sites. However, since capping is often a feature of DOE’s baseline planning, it made sense to compare other cleanup options to capping to show the potential strengths and weaknesses of the various alternatives for particular applications. There is also an acknowledgement that there currently are a limited number of technologies that can be feasibly applied to very deep contamination (e.g., below 100 feet) and that capping or the general act of limiting recharge is one option to help limit exposure and risk.
The Hanford Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (also known as the Tri-Party Agreement) was signed by USDOE, EPA, and Ecology in 1989 with the purpose of coordinating the CERCLA and RCRA cleanup authorities at Hanford. The Tri-Party Agreement also outlines the process for changing, removing, or adding milestones, the conditions under which penalties may be issued, and the requirements for public involvement relating to Hanford cleanup actions. Major changes to the Tri-Party Agreement require approval of all three agencies and are only made after a public participation process has been followed.
2010 State of Washington v. Chu Consent Decree (PDF) (43 pp, 1.9MB)
CERCLA 121(c) requires five-year reviews on remedial actions when hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants will remain on site above levels that allow for “unlimited use and unrestricted exposure”. A general overview of the review process can be found in this presentation (2 pp. 56K). The first Five-Year Review (PDF) (142pp, 6.8 MB) was completed in 2001 by EPA staff. The Department of Energy (DOE) chose to conduct the second Five-Year Review (PDF) (334 pp. 5MB) which had draft 0 completed in 2006. When DOE performs the review, as in 2006, EPA is still required to review the report and provide comments/concurrence in a letter of review. In addition to the text of the 2006 five-year review, you can also see an EPA fact sheet of the 2006 review (PDF) (2 pp. 60K), the EPA Letter of Review (PDF) (3 pp. 110K), summary of EPA's protectiveness determinations (PDF) (6 pp. 27K), and a protectiveness determination discussion (PDF) (4 pp. 20K).
Fact Sheets and Documents
- Hanford 3rd Five Year Review (PDF) (204 pp, 14MB) - March 2012
- EPA Concurrence Letter on Hanford 3rd FYR (PDF) (4 pp, 205K) - May 16, 2012
- Department of Energy reply to EPA Concurrence Letter (PDF) (6 pp, 510K) - June 22, 2012
- EPA Second Concurrence Letter regarding 3rd Five Year Review (PDF) (1 pp, 46K) -July 9, 2012