I welcome this opportunity to update the community on one of Hanford’s cleanup success stories — the Department of Energy’s (DOE) River Corridor Closure Project.
Washington Closure Hanford (WCH), which has managed the $2.9 billion River Corridor Closure Project for DOE since 2005, will complete its contract as of September 2016.
The River Corridor is a 220-square-mile section of the Hanford Site running along nearly 50 miles of the Columbia River. It was home to Hanford’s nine nuclear reactors, fuel-processing facilities and laboratories used for plutonium production operations during World War II and the Cold War.
To date, we have completed cleanup of approximately 180 square miles and — over the course of the past 10 years — have met every milestone established in the Tri-Party Agreement between the DOE, Washington state Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency.
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To date, we have completed cleanup of approximately 180 square miles and — over the course of the past 10 years — have met every milestone established in the Tri-Party Agreement between the DOE, Washington state Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency. Meeting these objectives has entailed demolishing 324 of the 332 buildings and remediating 573 of the 580 waste sites in our contract — some of which occurred near B Reactor, helping pave the way for the historic reactor to become part of the newly established national park system. We also transported 11.5 million tons of waste material away from the Columbia River and disposed of it in the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility (ERDF) — the onsite landfill we manage for all Hanford contractors. Most recently, we removed an estimated 129 tons of concentrated chromium from the reactor areas before it reached the groundwater and eventually the river.
Perhaps the most visible sign of Hanford cleanup progress is evident in the 300 Area just north of Richland: We have demolished 173 facilities and remediated 109 waste sites within the industrial complex that once was the center of Hanford’s radiological research. Removing the last of six underground test reactors and an enormous underground concrete vault used to collect highly contaminated liquid waste were the highlights of the cleanup effort.
In accomplishing these goals, we have maintained safety as our foundation. Twice we have reached 6 million safe work hours without a lost workday injury, cementing our status as one of the safest contractors in the DOE complex. In fact, our stellar safety record is a primary reason we were honored last fall by being named one of three finalists for the Project Management Institute’s Global Project of the Year award.
Integrating safety into every stage of work planning and execution has also allowed us to save the taxpayers more than $300 million in cleanup costs. And sharing this safety culture with our subcontractors has allowed us to award more than $1 billion in subcontract dollars to small businesses — about two-thirds to businesses in Benton and Franklin counties.
Hundreds of creative, resilient employees and subcontract personnel have contributed to our success.
Work during the final months of our contract will center on four projects: finishing cleanup of the waste trenches at the 618-10 Burial Ground; placing the 324 Building in a safe, surveillance and maintenance mode; operating the ERDF; and completing the initial remediation of vertically buried pipes at 618-10 that contain radioactive and hazardous chemical waste.
But there is another component of our work ethic that I need to highlight. Hundreds of creative, resilient employees and subcontract personnel have contributed to our success. A reality of a closure contract is that as we complete our work, we have been reducing staff. In support of our personnel, we instituted a People Plan, engaging the entire management team in providing extensive job counseling and placement assistance. As a consequence, 96 percent of those employees released in the past two years who were seeking work after their assignments with WCH have been placed in new assignments.
As is evident, I’m very proud of what our team has accomplished as the DOE’s largest environmental cleanup closure project. By working together, we’ve accomplished our mission to protect the Columbia River and move one step closer to opening 220 square miles of the Hanford Site to future generations.