I came to Hanford in 1985 on a temporary job working to refuel the N Reactor. My plan was to earn enough money to go back to school, get my counseling credentials and become a high school guidance counselor. My three-month stop has turned into a 30-plus-year adventure, where I’ve seen the Hanford Site shift from a heavy production mission to that of cleanup.
I want to focus for a moment on the N Area cleanup, as I think it illustrates how far we have moved in our cleanup mission and it typifies the cleanup that has occurred along the other areas adjacent to the Columbia River. The N Area cleanup focused on three areas: removing a number of former waste sites, removing a plethora of contaminated buildings and placing the N Reactor and the adjacent power generating station into a safe storage condition that we refer to as cocooning.
The Tri-City Herald Progress article from last year detailed the transformation of the N area and alluded to the fact that the area was now a haven for deer and other wildlife. Having started my career at N Area, I wanted to see the site for myself. As I drove toward the reactor, I crested a hill and lo and behold, a small herd of deer contentedly grazed on the newly planted vegetation at the site of the former “Golf Ball.”
As I drove toward the reactor, I crested a hill and lo and behold, a small herd of deer contentedly grazed on the newly planted vegetation at the site of the former “Golf Ball.”
It was a bit surreal that this industrial complex that had been littered with contamination is nothing but open space. As I mentioned earlier, the reactor and power plant still stand in their cocooned condition, but it is almost as if this gentle giant is watching over the now-open landscape. I will note that, for the N Area cleanup to be truly complete, we still need to remove the reactor and power plant, slated to occur toward the tail end of Site cleanup.
EPA is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Superfund Program by highlighting 35 cleanup sites from across the nation. Hanford is one of the projects featured. You can visit the Hanford write-up or any of the other sites stories by visiting EPA’s website at www.epa.gov.
This past year, we have also seen the fruits of the cleanup manifest itself in one of Superfund’s key goals of turning formerly containment lands into other productive uses. Most people know that a portion of the Hanford Site is now designated as a National Park and, although public access is currently limited to Department of Energy-sponsored bus tours, I expect we’ll see increased public access into the future.
Another major event in 2015 was the transfer of more than 1,600 acres of land that was formerly part of the 300 Area Superfund Site to the local land-use authority of TRIDEC to assist in the redevelopment of this area for other industrial uses.
Another major event in 2015 was the transfer of more than 1,600 acres of land that was formerly part of the 300 Area Superfund Site to the local land-use authority of TRIDEC to assist in the redevelopment of this area for other industrial uses. This land will be turned over to others such as the Port of Benton to encourage new industries in the area.
Although we’ve made much progress over the past several years, I would be remiss if I didn’t look to the future and consider how much work there is to go. Near-term projects we must finish are the cleanup of the Plutonium Finishing Plant, which in my opinion is one of the most challenging jobs the work force has taken on, as well as the removal of the remaining sludge from the K Basins. We also need to finish the work in the 300 Area, which includes two burial grounds, a highly radioactive release from the 324 Building hot cell and the hot cell facility itself. Long-term projects include the cleanup of more than 1,000 waste sites in the central part of Hanford, as well as nearly that many contaminated buildings. I do not have regulatory oversight of the cleanup of the tank farm waste, but it, too, remains to be done.