Hanford

Get ready to register for Hanford tours. Free tickets go fast

Hanford workers begin moving radioactive waste away from Columbia River

Hanford workers began moving some of the highly radioactive sludge out of the K West Reactor Basin, located just 400 yards from the Columbia River, on June 12, 2018. It will be stored in below-ground cells until it can be prepared for disposal.
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Hanford workers began moving some of the highly radioactive sludge out of the K West Reactor Basin, located just 400 yards from the Columbia River, on June 12, 2018. It will be stored in below-ground cells until it can be prepared for disposal.

Registration for the popular environmental cleanup tours of Hanford in 2019 opens at 9 a.m. on the dot March 19.

Procrastinators beware — all bus seats for the year are often claimed within a couple of hours. The public usually is not allowed on the secure site.

Registration is available only on line at hanford.gov.

This year 20 bus tours will be offered by the Department of Energy, lasting about four hours each. Participants must be U.S. citizens and at least 18.

Separate tours will be offered for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes B Reactor and sites showing life before families were removed to make way for the nuclear reservation during World War II.

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Learn about the Hanford vitrification plant under construction on one of the free tours of the nuclear reservation planned for 2019. Courtesy Bechtel National

Sign up for 2019 national park tours has not started. Unlike the DOE cleanup tours, the park service tours do not have citizenship or age restrictions.

The environmental cleanup tours offered by the Department of Energy give the public a look at work being done to clean up contamination left by production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II to the Cold War.

It is a chance for people in the Tri-Cities to get a look at what’s going on in their backyard. It’s also popular with retired workers who want to see cleanup progress or show family members where they worked.

Hanford cleanup tour stops

This year the tour will include briefings on these projects:

Hanford’s Cold Test Facility, an above-ground mockup of one of Hanford’s 177 underground tanks used to store radioactive and hazardous chemical waste. The facility is used to test different methods of emptying the enclosed, underground tanks.

The 200 West Pump and Treat facility, which removes several kinds of radioactive, chemical and organic pollution from groundwater in central Hanford that moves toward the Columbia River.

The sludge removal project, at which work is being done to move highly radioactive waste stored in underwater containers at the K West Reactor Basin to safer storage away from the Columbia River in the center of the 580-square-mile site in Eastern Washington state.

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Hanford’s Cold Test Facility is one of the stops on the 2019 tours highlighting environmental cleanup on the nuclear reservation. Courtesy Washington River Protection Solutions

The Waste Treatment Plant, also called the vitrification plant. The $17 billion plant is being built to turn much of Hanford’s tank waste into a stable glass form for disposal.

The PUREX waste storage tunnels, where workers are filling the second tunnel with concrete-like grout to prevent a collapse. The work is being done after the first PUREX tunnel, storing rail cars loaded with radioactive waste, partially collapsed.

Tours will be offered at 8 a.m. on April 17, 23 and 25; May 1, 7, 9 and 16; June 19, 25 and 27; July 17, 23, 25 and 31; and Aug. 6, 8, 14, 20, 22 and 28.

They leave at 8 a.m. from the Mission Support Alliance office at 2490 Garlick Blvd., Richland.

Participants must carry government-issued photo identification on the tour with a name exactly matching the name on the registration.

A limited number of “walk on” seats may be available. Call 509-376-5840 for more information.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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