Thirty years ago a landmark agreement was signed calling for the cleanup of Hanford, a 580-square-mile site contaminated with some of the most dangerous, and long-lived, chemicals and nuclear wastes on the planet. Everyone knew cleaning up Hanford would be a complex, contentious and expensive task. Time was needed to agree on the extent of the contamination and just how to clean up the site. And the price tag soared to billions of dollars. Unlike other nuclear production sites, Hanford had used many different processes, which produced nuclear materials of complex mixtures, with many different chemicals in the waste. The most radioactive waste was stored in 149 1-million-gallon underground, single-shell tanks and, later, in 27 double-shell tanks. The technologies and facilities necessary to treat such hazardous and diverse waste had never been demonstrated and built on such a large scale. Extraordinary progress has been made. All 11 of the production reactors have been closed, and five of the nine production reactors have been buried in millions of tons of concrete, a mute testament to a bygone era. Millions of tons of contaminated soils, construction debris and other contaminated materials have been placed in an 11-square-mile area at the center of the site, with ongoing monitoring. Huge concrete processing buildings have been decommissioned and many torn down.
Seattle Times 10th May 2019 read more »