So what exactly is the Hanford Nuclear Site?

A month ago, I was driving to the Tri-Cities and my 12 year old son asked “What is going on at Hanford? What are they doing?”

Radioactive Waste Cleanup Continues At Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Jeff T. Green/Getty Images

“I don’t exactly know. I’ll have to google it”

Off the top of my head, I know that it was the top secret site where the US War Department developed and used Plutonium, to quickly build the world’s first atomic bomb. The US was in a race with Nazi Germany to develop a “Super Weapon.” During the lead up to the dropping of the first atomic bomb, only 5% of workers at Hanford knew the master plan of what was being developed. The other 95% worked in complete oblivion.

After World War II ended, the Hanford site continued to produce plutonium, The push to produce during the cold war years of 1946 to 1989, created nine nuclear reactors.

In 1963, President Kennedy visited for a groundbreaking ceremony at the Hanford Nuclear site. That would allow the N Reactor to produce electricity in addition to plutonium for nuclear weapons. This was the first time the public was allowed on Hanford for the visit. 37,000 people attended.


This is how the Department of Ecology describes Hanford in the modern era: 

Now, efforts are geared at cleanup of one of the most contaminated nuclear sites in the world. -

Clean up? What exactly needs to be cleaned up?

The Department of Ecology disclosed that during the World War II and Cold War production era, 100 billion gallons of wastewater were discharged. Terrible contamination of the ground and the groundwater below resulted and this is the most disturbing part: “waste water would often reach the Columbia River” The bad news doesn’t end there.

Radioactive Waste Cleanup Continues At Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Jeff T. Green/Getty Images

56 million gallons of the “most hazardous and radioactive waste”, was stored in 177 underground tanks. The Hanford workers also stored chemical and radioactive waste in boxes and barrels in, get this, unlined trenches. The Department of Ecology also admits that “Large pieces of contaminated equipment were buried underground on rail cars.”

We could have done better. Now we have to clean it up. Click this link, to learn more about the important and large task of keeping our ground, water and air safe during the cleanup process.

INFO: Washington Department of Ecology

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