Hanford will use an airplane to save some employee legwork this week.
A small plane based at the Pasco airport will fly over central Hanford to survey for slight increases in temperature. Thermal images will be collected to check for hot spots that could be caused by buried radioactive waste.
The data will be used to augment information collected two years ago with a helicopter equipped with sensors to measure levels of radiation and to help predict what type of radioactive contaminants might be present.
“It gives us a starting point of where to go look,” said Mike Cline, Department of Energy director for the Hanford nuclear reservation soil and groundwater division.
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Work then will be done to determine the extent and type of waste that may have been buried in central Hanford from World War II through the Cold War, when Hanford was producing plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
Characterization will be done with more intrusive methods, such as boring into the ground, before plans are developed for how to clean up the waste.
It is easier to do by air than by foot.
John Rendall, CH2M vice president of Hanford soil and groundwater remediation
Among central Hanford burial grounds are 25 landfills that together received almost 16 million cubic feet of radioactive solid waste.
The small plane will fly a grid pattern over 20 square miles using a global positioning system to guide it starting early Wednesday morning.
The plane will fly from about midnight to 4:30 a.m. to avoid sunlight and temperature fluctuations, said John Rendall, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. vice president of soil and groundwater remediation.
With good weather and no wildfires, the flights could wrap up in as few as three nights.
“It is easier to do by air than by foot,” Rendall said.
The work, done by National Security Technologies of Nevada, will cost about $100,000 to $125,000, which includes the data analysis.