Hanford Resources

To ensure the complete and timely cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Site, we review and critique cleanup and restoration plans.

We write comment letters detailing our analyses, publish articles and blog posts, and prepare fact sheets to help others understand the plans and how to protect the Columbia River. By clicking the links below, you can view and download our work.

KOIN News public service announcements featuring Columbia Riverkeeper:

Reports:

  • Competing Visions for the Future of Hanford (2018) examines how competing visions for Hanford’s future—from the perspectives of tribal nations, the federal government, and the states of Oregon and Washington—will determine Hanford’s nuclear legacy. 
  • Hanford & the River (2013) describes the history of nuclear waste production and the impact on the Columbia River. The report discusses the pollution problems, current cleanup actions, plans to import more radioactive waste, and ways that you can help promote a safe Columbia River.
  • Hanford Environmental Report (2015) Supplements "Hanford & the River" book and includes updated versions of fact sheets.

Articles & Blog Posts:

Fact Sheets:

Comment Letters:

  • Comment letter, NRDC et al. Comments on Energy Department’s Request for Public Comment on the Interpretation of High-Level Radioactive Waste. (January 2019)
  • Comment letter, Oregon Department of Energy to U.S. Department of Energy. (November 2018)
  • Hanford Advisory Board Advice, Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Determination for Waste Management Area C. (November 2018)
  • Fact Sheet, WIR Comment Period 
  • The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation letter, Comments on WIR.(November 2018)
  • Washington Department of Ecology letter, Comments on WIR. (November 2018)
  • Draft Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Evaluation for Closure of Waste Management Area C at the Hanford Site (Draft WIR Evaluation): The U.S. Department of Energy Proposal to Re-Label High-Level Waste. (July 2018)
  • Tri-Party Agreement Proposed Cleanup Delays are Unacceptable: The U.S. Department of Energy, WA State Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are proposing changes to the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA), the document that lays out the deadlines for the cleanup effort at Hanford. (February 2016)
  • Hanford Risk Review Report Understates the Risk to the Environment and to Human Health: The U.S. Department of Energy (Energy) commissioned the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) to complete “a comprehensive review” of the Hanford site for the “purpose of developing a summary level catalog and classification of risks and impacts to human health and resources.” Unfortunately, the report often strays from its core purpose and advocates for more limited cleanup of Hanford’s contamination. Riverkeeper is concerned that this report severely understates some risks, misrepresents others, and presents an analysis that may be used to justify a less rigorous cleanup at Hanford. (October 2015)
  • Proposed Plan Is Not Protective of the Columbia River and Human Health (I00-F/IU Cleanup Plan): Riverkeeper has significant concerns about the U.S. Department of Energy’s most recent proposed cleanup plan for over 2500 acres of polluted groundwater and soil near the Columbia River. Energy’s plan relies heavily on monitored natural attenuation (a wait-and-see approach) and uses institutional controls (signs and fences to limit area access) to address radioactive and toxic pollution. Not only will this plan leave large amounts of hazardous waste in soil and groundwater for decades, but it could also set a precedent for how Energy approaches important decisions for cleanup at Hanford in the future. This plan is not protective of the Columbia River, human health and the environment. (August 2014)
  • Don't Shortchange Hanford's Groundwater: Despite the need to intercept radioactive and chemical waste in the groundwater before it reaches the Columbia River, Energy’s proposed 2014 and 2015 budget shortchanges Hanford’s critical groundwater treatment program. The groundwater program will receive only half of the funds necessary to reach cleanup milestones. Just 6 percent of the proposed Hanford budget of $2.2 billion is targeted toward groundwater cleanup. (June 2013)
  • Tri-Party Agreement Proposed Changes: Riverkeeper remains concerned that the changes to the Tri-Party Agreement will prompt delays in cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Site, specifically the River Corridor and that the Department of Energy is failing to adequately fund necessary cleanup activities. (January 2013)
  • Natural Resource Damage Injury Assessment Plan: Imagine spending a day exploring Hanford’s unique landscapes, including the Hanford Dunes, viewing the wildlife of Hanford’s undisturbed shrub-steppe habitat, and fishing in the free-flowing Hanford Reach. Seventy years of nuclear contamination have scarred Hanford and damaged many of these recreational opportunities and natural resources. But now, a group of federal, state and tribal representatives – the Hanford Trustees – are taking the first steps towards restoration. Let the Trustees know that recreation is an important resource that you want to see restored at Hanford. (January 2012)
  • Miscellaneous Streams Permit: The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is re-issuing a permit that allows the U.S. Department of Energy (Energy) to dump millions of gallons of maintenance and construction wastewater, cooling water, condensate, and industrial stormwater onto the ground at Hanford on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this permit—called the "Miscellaneous Streams Permit"—may not adequately protect the Columbia River and Hanford’s already-contaminated groundwater. (January 2013)

Hanford Curriculum:

Other Resources:

Learn more about Hanford's nuclear legacy, the Department of Energy's responsibility to remove the contamination and what other government agencies and nonprofits are doing to protect northwest communities and the Columbia River from contamination.

Our Nuclear Legacy


Historic Hanford

The 586‐square‐mile Hanford Nuclear Site is a legacy of World War II and the Cold War.

In 1943, the federal government selected Hanford as a top‐secret site for the Manhattan Project, which called for enriching plutonium for nuclear weapons. Located in a sparsely populated area in south‐central Washington State near the city of Richland, the federal government quickly evacuated and condemned the small towns of White Bluffs and Hanford. The government also denied access to Native Americans who lived along the river and had historically used the area for fishing, hunting, food gathering, and religious purposes. Within a year, the U.S. constructed the world’s first large-scale nuclear reactor. In August 1945, concentrated plutonium manufactured at Hanford powered the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

The United States eventually built nine nuclear reactors along the Columbia River to produce plutonium and other materials. The river provided electricity from the Grand Coulee Dam and abundant water to cool the nuclear reactors.

From 1943 to 1989, the federal government generated unprecedented volumes of hazardous and radioactive waste. For example, Hanford released approximately 725,000 curies of radioactive iodine‐131 between 1944 and 1957. In contrast, the 1979 famous accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania released between 15 and 24 curies of iodine‐131.

During Hanford’s operation, the federal government disposed of hundreds of millions of gallons of radioactive waste directly into the ground—injection wells, trenches, and buried drums. D.O.E. also placed waste in 177 large underground tanks, many of which are now leaking. The United States also discharged contaminated cooling water into the Columbia River from the nuclear reactors, which contained about 110 million curies of mostly short‐lived radionuclides. Hanford operations also resulted in air emissions of approximately 20 million curies from 1944 to 1972. Citizens downwind report increased rates of thyroid cancer as a result of the iodine releases.