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News » US » Clean-up plan published for Hanford nuclear site » published 2 Aug 2018

Clean-up plan published for Hanford nuclear site

A US$200m clean-up plan has been published for a 7.8-square-mile section of the Hanford nuclear site in south central Washington.

The record of decision was issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency, together with the Department of Energy and with concurrence from the Washington State Department of Ecology. It covers the Hanford 100 Area D and H areas, which are part of the 586-square-mile Hanford Reservation.

The US$200m remediation million includes removal, treatment, and disposal of contaminated soil and debris; upgrading the existing groundwater treatment system; and controls to prevent contamination exposure until clean-up levels are met. Under the ROD, groundwater will be cleaned up to drinking water standards and waste sites cleaned up to ‘suitable for residential use’ levels.

“This Record of Decision ensures the final remaining waste sites in the 100 D and H area will be addressed thoroughly and quickly,” said acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s action reflects EPA’s commitment to accelerating sites through the entire remediation process and returning them to productive reuse for the benefit of the health and livelihood of surrounding communities.”

EPA regional administrator Chris Hladick added: “This land and groundwater clean-up is an important ‘puzzle piece’ in the larger Hanford Project. Since these areas are virtually on the banks of the Columbia River, this work to further reduce toxic and radiological threats to the River is particularly important.”

Adjacent to the Columbia River, the larger 100 Area was home to nine water-cooled plutonium reactors, constructed between 1943 and 1963. These 100 Area reactors (while operating) disposed of cooling water and solid wastes in over 400 waste sites, trenches, cribs (underground drain fields), ponds and burial grounds. Leaks in the reactors’ wastewater piping and retention systems led to soil and groundwater contamination.

Large-scale clean-up work of the 100 Area D and H units has already occurred under several earlier, interim RODs (since 1996) and represent an investment of US$374 million. Of the 104 waste sites listed in the current final ROD, 99 have been remediated and are awaiting final confirmation that the completed work meets clean-up targets. Excavation of five waste sites, monitored natural attenuation and the expansion of the groundwater pump and treat system remain to complete the project.

The remaining waste sites covered by the new ROD should be cleaned-up in the next two years, while 12 years of pumping and treating groundwater is expected to meet hexavalent chromium clean-up levels. Monitored natural attenuation for strontium-90 and nitrate is expected to meet drinking water standards in 44 years.

 

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This article was published on 2 Aug 2018 (last updated on 2 Aug 2018).

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