Online registration for all 2016 sitewide tours of Hanford will open at 9 a.m. April 5 at www.hanford.gov.
The sitewide bus tours will give visitors a look at the extensive environmental cleanup program on the 586-square-mile nuclear reservation once used for plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
Registration for two other sets of tours with a historic focus — B Reactor and the communities that were seized by the federal government for the secret Manhattan Project — have yet to be announced. There will be no stop at B Reactor for the sitewide tours this year.
The Department of Energy has scaled back cleanup tours to just 15, down from 40 tours last year and 60 in 2010.
DOE is concerned there may be less interest in the tours now that B Reactor has been removed from the cleanup tour after becoming part of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, with tours of park areas offered in collaboration with the National Park Service.
However, DOE points out that the number of Hanford tours overall has continued to increase, when historic Hanford and B Reactor tours are included in the total.
DOE may consider adding more sitewide cleanup tours to the 2016 schedule if demand remains strong without a stop at B Reactor.
In many past years the cleanup tours have filled quickly. Those interested in the sitewide tours should be at their computers when registration opens to ensure a seat. Only online registration is offered.
The route for this year’s tours has not been set, but it likely will include a last look at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, where plutonium in a liquid solution was made into metal pucks. The high-hazard work of cleaning out the plant is in its late stages and it likely will be torn down before the 2017 tours.
Visitors also are taken most years to the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a 107-acre, lined landfill in central Hanford for low-level radioactive and hazardous chemical waste.
DOE also is considering a look at the Hanford vitrification plant campus. The treatment plant is being built to convert up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste into a stable glass form for disposal. Construction has been underway since 2002, with the start of treatment of some low-activity radioactive waste possible by 2022.
Participants in the sitewide tours must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age.
Government-issued photo identification is required and must be presented prior to receiving a security badge to board the tour bus.
Tour participants from some states, including Washington, may be required to provide two forms of ID to meet the security badging requirements.
All seats are filled on a first-come, first-served basis through the online registration system.
Tours will be offered May 3, 11, 17, 24 and 25; June 1, 7, 15, 21, 28 and 29; and July 12, 13, 26 and 27. Tours are offered on weekdays so visitors are more likely to see work being done.
Tours begin at 8 a.m. and last about four hours. Visitors will board a bus at the HAMMER federal training facility at 2890 Horn Rapids Road, Richland. There is no cost.