Not all work at the Hanford nuclear reservation involves tearing down buildings and ripping out infrastructure.
With environmental cleanup work expected to continue for decades, workers have completed replacing five miles of water lines.
Most of the piping that was replaced dated from World War II, when Hanford workers were installing infrastructure to support the race to produce plutonium for the the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, to help end the war.
The site has had trouble with old pipes leaking or breaking. Water released into the ground can carry any contamination in the soil deeper toward the ground water, which moves toward the Columbia River.
“Critical infrastructure improvement projects, like replacing World War II-era water lines, are necessary to invest in, despite the steadily shrinking footprint at Hanford,” said Tom Fletcher, deputy manager of the Department of Energy Hanford Richland Operations Office.
DOE contractor Mission Support Alliance, which was responsible for the work, said the replacement would eliminate the need for emergency repairs and also provide more reliable operation of the site’s water system.
We are replacing old utilities that served a large site with more efficient systems that are the right size for a smaller cleanup area.
Tom Fletcher, deputy manager of the Richland Operations Office
The improvements, which include new controls, vent and drain valves, serve central Hanford, where about 8,000 people work, according to Mission Support Alliance.
The system provides drinking water and supplies the raw water grid and reservoirs. It also brings water from the Columbia River for fire protection.
“We are replacing old utilities that served a large site with more efficient systems that are the right size for a smaller cleanup area,” Fletcher said.
With cleanup completed on most of the land along the Columbia River, most remaining work will be in the center 25 square miles of Hanford in coming years.
The area includes Hanford underground tanks storing 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. The vitrification plant being built to turn the waste into a stable glass form is not expected to be fully operating until 2036. The area also has about 1,000 waste sites and large processing plants that must be cleaned up.
The water line replacement was done with attention to leaving areas of old growth sagebrush undisturbed, Mission Support Alliance said. Areas that were disturbed have been replanted with shrubs and grasses.
The cost of the project, which included revegetation and some other related work, was about $3 million.
“Completing of this project means that the workers on the central plateau have the reliable water necessary to continue Hanford cleanup,” said Dan Parr, Mission Support Alliance project manager.