It’s been nearly 10 years since we began our mission on the River Corridor to clean up hundreds of contaminated buildings and waste sites. The River Corridor is a 220-square-mile section of the Hanford Site that borders the Columbia River.
Today, I’m pleased to report the tremendous progress Washington Closure Hanford has made working with the Department of Energy (DOE) on the $2.7 billion River Corridor Closure Project.
We are 91 percent complete with our contract, having cleaned up 178 of the 220 square miles of land that was home to Hanford’s nine nuclear reactors, fuel fabrication facilities and hundreds of support facilities. We have remediated 521 of 585 waste sites, demolished 321 of 331 buildings and transported and disposed of almost 12 million tons of contaminated materials at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility (ERDF) — the onsite landfill we manage for all Hanford contractors.
As we move toward closure, we will continue to work with DOE and our regulators as we make progress and complete our work in a safe, cost-effective manner. Our River Corridor team’s cleanup strategy is the same as it’s been since we began cleanup in 2005. We start each project by addressing all possible hazards, and we select the right personnel and tools for the job. By committing to this approach, we have saved $280 million and reinvested the money into additional cleanup projects along the river.
This approach has also paid off in the safety of our workers: We recently achieved five million hours without a lost work day for the second time since the start of our contract, further cementing our standing as one of the safest contractors in the DOE cleanup complex.
Our motto at Washington Closure is to work as “One Team for Safe, Visible Cleanup of the River Corridor.” Having built a strong team makes our anticipated staff reductions all the more difficult, yet we dedicated ourselves to prepare our people for jobs after WCH — this is one of our key and ongoing initiatives.
We also recognize that our success depends on the skills and resources we receive from small and local businesses. We are proud to have awarded more than $1 billion in subcontracts to small businesses, two-thirds of which has gone to businesses in Benton and Franklin counties.
Safe and efficient work was essential in early 2014 as we faced two critical lifts in the 300 Area — the center of Hanford’s radiological research and fuel fabrication facilities — when we removed two massive underground structures. The Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor and the 340 Tank Vault were meticulously removed and shipped to ERDF for disposal. The test reactor and the vault each weighed about 1,100 tons.
After the massive lifts, we continued to work underground in the 300 Area. We used explosives to demolish the massive concrete structure that housed the test reactor, and we remediated a large system of pipelines that once carried highly contaminated liquids.
Out in the reactor areas, we dug two massive holes 85 feet deep to groundwater near D and DR reactors to remove the largest source of chromium contamination near the Columbia River. We also completed a campaign to backfill hundreds of cleaned up waste sites that required transporting and dumping about 3 million tons (34,000 truckloads) of soil.
At ERDF, we recently reached the 17 million ton mark for total waste disposed since the facility opened in 1996 — 15 million tons of debris was moved away from the Columbia River.
Moving forward, we will complete the waste site remediation in the reactor areas. And we continue to clean up the highly hazardous 618-10 Burial Ground that is just off the main highway to the Hanford Site. In addition, we have completed all building demolition work on the River Corridor except for the 324 Building, where radioactive material leaked into the soil through one of the building’s “hot cells” in the 1980s. We are on schedule for designing a system to clean up the contaminated soil beneath the building.
The success of completing the hazardous and complex work on the River Corridor is something our team can be proud of as we receive recognition as a top performing DOE contractor from our customers and stakeholders alike. Our success as a top performing contractor in the DOE cleanup complex is a critical step to prepare the area for future public use. We look forward to accomplishing our ultimate goal — protecting the Columbia River by cleaning up the River Corridor. That, we hope, will be our lasting legacy.