DOE Richland Operations Office: Preparing Hanford's River Corridor for the future

Matt McCormick, managerMarch 30, 2014 

Along the Columbia River, Hanford's 220-square-mile River Corridor has undergone a dramatic change since cleanup began. During World War II and the Cold War, hundreds of facilities made and irradiated millions of pieces of uranium to produce plutonium. Now, all that stands in this area are a few buildings and the remnants of Hanford's large nuclear reactors that have been "cocooned."

In 2013, the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors celebrated an achievement that shows their success to date in cleaning up the River Corridor -- 15 million tons of contaminated material disposed of in the site's Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, operated by contractor Washington Closure Hanford.

The work is preparing Hanford's River Corridor for the future: long-term monitoring of ecological and cultural resources, as well as phased-in, controlled public access and increased tribal use, consistent with the site's 1999 Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). The world's first full-scale nuclear production reactor, B Reactor, has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark and is host to an average of 10,000 visitors a year. And closer to Richland, in the area zoned by the CLUP for industrial uses, the Richland Operations Office is working with the community to allow for the transfer of 1,641 acres for development that would support economic diversity and job creation.

As cleanup is nearing completion in the River Corridor, our focus is turning to hundreds of projects in the center of the site, a 75-square-mile area known as the Central Plateau. Many of Hanford's toughest cleanup challenges are in this area, including finishing the cleanout and demolition of the main production facility, the Plutonium Finishing Plant. Hanford workers are nearing the final stretch of cleaning up and tearing down the building that produced almost two-thirds of the nation's plutonium. The workers are doing a great job of making sure this facility is demolished safely, and their expertise can be applied to other cleanup activities on the Central Plateau.

Cleanup is happening below the surface of the Hanford Site in the River Corridor and Central Plateau. Multiple treatment systems are removing radioactive and hazardous materials from the groundwater in record amounts. Contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company met several of DOE's key performance goals for groundwater in Fiscal Year 2013, including:

-- Treating a record 1.4 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater

-- Removing 220 kilograms of chromium from groundwater

-- Removing 1,600 kilograms of carbon tetrachloride from groundwater

This past year was also productive for contractor Mission Support Alliance (MSA). Since 2009, MSA has saved DOE and cleanup contractors more than $161 million by putting in place an innovative and cost-effective model for delivering Hanford services.

Worker health and safety, protecting the public and protecting the environment are our top priorities as we work on cleaning up the legacy of World War II and the Cold War. Our improved program for protecting workers from beryllium hazards is considered a model for the rest of DOE's cleanup sites across the country, and that is due to the teamwork of DOE, its contractors, organized labor and the Beryllium Awareness Group.

The Richland Operations Office is fortunate to have a positive relationship with the congressional delegation, the state Department of Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon, tribal nations and stakeholders, including the Hanford Advisory Board. We share a common goal of a safe and effective cleanup in this enormous undertaking.

We have a committed work force at the site, and I'd like to thank all Hanford workers for getting a lot of work done in a safe and efficient manner to clean up Hanford.

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