Hanford Nuclear Reservation | KUOW News and Information

Hanford Nuclear Reservation

About 300 people will keep their jobs at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington.

Just how clean is clean when it comes to removing radioactive tank waste? That’s one of the questions tackled in a new federal plan that will guide cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

A plan to turn part of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation into a national park has been dropped from a compromise defense authorization bill.

After nearly a year of study, the U.S. Department of Energy says fewer radioactive waste tanks appear to be leaking at Hanford than originally thought.

In early November, a federal appeals court will consider the case of a well-known Hanford whistleblower.

Flickr Photo/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Correspondent Anna King speaks with David Hyde about the firing of Hanford whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis and reports on the Department of Energy’s announcement of more cleanup delays of the Hanford radioactive waste site.

Washington officials say they’re disappointed but not surprised by news that the federal government likely will miss several more cleanup deadlines at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. 

At Hanford, radioactive sludge stews in aging underground tanks not far from the Columbia River. A 1989 agreement created the timeline for treating that caustic gunk. But the task has proven extremely difficult: A waste treatment plant has been plagued by whistleblowers, critical federal investigations, cost overruns and delays.

There’s a new plan for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal government is looking for ways to process certain types of radioactive waste more quickly, while managers there figure out how to solve major technical challenges at its massive Waste Treatment Plant.

The tank farms at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington have the all-clear for work to resume after a high-radiation incident briefly shut down much of the site last month.

In late August, Hanford workers responded to an emergency of a high-radiation reading near a tank known as C-101.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington has inspired documentaries, museum exhibits, art shows and even a book of poetry. Now, a Northwest band call Tangerine is about to release a new song that tackles the leaking tanks of radioactive waste at the federal site.

“I guess it’s a slightly unusual topic for a pop song," admits Marika Justad. "Especially one that has a romantic angle. Justad sings and plays guitar and piano for Tangerine, an alternative pop band from Seattle.

Washington’s state Attorney General is praising an appeals court decision on a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The ruling requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get the licensing process back on track for Yucca Mountain.

The state of Washington wants Yucca Mountain to be the permanent waste repository for radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. But President Obama buried the project because of opposition from Nevada’s political leaders.

Federal officials are trying to figure out what to do about radioactive materials that remain at a place near the Columbia River known as the 300 Area. It’s the subject of a series of public meetings that kick off this week.

The 300 Area was where workers milled uranium rods and tested ways to process plutonium during WWII and the Cold War. They poured about 2 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste a day into sandy ponds and trenches right next to the Columbia River. Cleaning up buildings and material there has kept crews busy for 20 years.

Managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation say crews have cleaned up 15 million tons of radioactive soil and debris from near the Columbia River. It’s gone to a massive dump at the center of the site.

In central Hanford, a ceremonial load of soil marked 15 million tons of waste disposed of at the 52-football-field-sized dump called ERDF. Dozens of truck horns blared in response.

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay $136,000 in fines for allegedly mishandling waste left over from plutonium production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The penalty comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Energy doesn’t agree with EPA's findings.

Hanford Tank Could Be Leaking Radioactive Waste Into Soil

Jun 21, 2013
Flickr Photo/Department of Energy Office of River Protection

For months now, we’ve known that six underground storage tanks at the Hanford nuclear reservation have been leaking radioactive waste. Now, the worst of these tanks may be leaking contaminated waste into the soil. Yesterday, radioactive material was detected outside the tank. Jeannie Yandel talks with King 5 investigate reporter Susannah Frame, who has been following this story closely.

Ernest Moniz, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy visits Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington on Wednesday. Among the issues he will have to deal with are the leaking underground tanks of radioactive waste and the troubled waste treatment plant.

From his resume, it appears Moniz isn’t short on brainpower. He’s been on the faculty of MIT since 1973. Secretary Moniz received a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

The federal government says in a new report that it may take six years to start emptying a leaking double-hulled tank of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Washington state law says any leaks must be dealt with as soon as possible – but the federal government’s soon as possible is maybe years away. That’s because it could take 18 months just to get and set up equipment to pump sludge from the leaking double-hulled tank called AY-102. In addition it will take about six years to secure appropriate tank space to put all that sludge.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state attorney general say they’re quote ‘extremely disappointed’ that the U.S. Department of Energy may miss several key deadlines for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The two milestones that may be missed are: completing waste retrieval from two of Hanford’s aging single-shell tanks and finishing up construction on the Low Activity Waste Facility, one of the key parts of Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant.

Workers are back on the job at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant. Work stopped this week when radioactive soil was found under the nests of some swallows.

Swallows used some radioactive mud to make nests on exposed beamwork in Hanford’s waste treatment plant. That’s the $12 billion factory designed to bind-up radioactive sludge in glass logs. The nests were found during routine tests, but this is the first radioactive contamination of the new plant.

The people overseeing the cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster are learning some valuable lessons from the long-running cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. A Japanese government delegation recently toured some of the southeast Washington site.

In Japan, workers in gloves and masks are grinding down sidewalks and roads, wiping down rooftops and bagging contaminated soil. Now, the problem is where to put all that radioactive waste from Fukushima.

Cleanup of a hazardous chemical called hexavalent chromium in the groundwater at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington is going faster than expected.

Hexavalent chromium is the nasty stuff that made Erin Brockovich famous down in California. The chemical was used to inhibit rust in coolant water in Hanford’s reactors. But that water was dumped into the desert, and now the cancer-causer is making its way toward the Columbia River in large groundwater plumes.

RICHLAND, Wash. – It may take two to four years to even begin clearing radioactive waste from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. That’s according to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He toured the southeast Washington nuclear site Wednesday.

RICHLAND, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says it may take two to four years to begin removing liquids from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The Democratic governor made the comments Wednesday after a tour of the southeast Washington site.

The governor told reporters on the tour that there is no technology that can stop the leaks.

RICHLAND, Wash. – As many as 4,800 workers could be furloughed or laid off at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. It’s the result of the federal spending cuts known as the sequester. Hanford will need to cut $182 million in cleanup work according to a federal letter to Washington Governor Jay Inslee released Tuesday.

RICHLAND, Wash. – President Obama’s nominee for the next federal Energy Secretary is no stranger to the cleanup work at the Northwest’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Ernest Moniz was Energy undersecretary during the Clinton Administration and back in the late '90s he faced scrutiny about tank leaks at Hanford.

The problem -- and question then -- was whether about a million gallons of leaked radioactive tank waste had reached the groundwater and was headed toward the Columbia River. Or if it was staying put in a dry layer of soil, above the groundwater.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new detail has emerged on the leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal Energy Department acknowledged last week that six single-shelled tanks are holding less radioactive waste than they used to. Monday the agency said those tanks are losing less than three gallons a day.

Worst case: Three gallons per day adds up to 1,095 gallons of radioactive waste per year. The Department of Energy says it doesn’t know yet how long these tanks might have been seeping waste.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A Hanford Nuclear Reservation watchdog says U.S. Energy officials have bigger problems than the waste that has possibly leaking from a tank in southeast Washington. The tank called T-111, is losing about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid waste a year.

Tom Carpenter heads the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge. He says Friday’s news highlights the fact that there’s little space to move highly radioactive waste to.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A tank full of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington may be leaking. Friday the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors say liquid levels in an underground radioactive waste tank are going down.

The single-hulled tank is called T-111. It’s located in central Hanford in a group of tanks called T-farm. The Department of Energy reports the rate of loss is about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid a year.

RICHLAND, Wash. - A bipartisan group of senior senators is drafting a bill to overhaul the U.S. nuclear-waste program. The group, which includes Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, is aiming to find a permanent home for the nation’s radioactive waste.

Pages