Developing a Pipeline While Leaving Uranium in Soils - Hanford’s 300 Area Is at Risk

Hanford is the most polluted site in the Western Hemisphere. Adjacent to the Columbia River, over 40 years of Hanford operations produced weapons-grade plutonium and huge volumes of nuclear and chemical waste. In Hanford’s 300 Area, very close to the Columbia River, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is poised to make key cleanup and development decisions that could impact the Columbia River for generations to come.

For example, DOE is evaluating its options for cleaning up highly radioactive plumes of uranium-laden groundwater. For years, groundwater with excessive levels of uranium has been leaching into the Columbia River from Hanford’s 300 Area, which was used to test nuclear materials. DOE is discussing cleanup alternatives for the 300 Area that would leave uranium in the ground rather than conducting an extensive excavation of polluted soils. Riverkeeper advocates for removing, treating, and disposing of long-lived contaminants like uranium that are in close proximity to the Columbia River. In coming months, we will be asking our members to contact DOE and to urge the agency to conduct a robust cleanup of uranium in Hanford’s 300 Area.

Meanwhile, DOE has been entertaining ideas for future energy developments at Hanford. DOE has proposed a plan to build a large natural gas pipeline across the Columbia River into the Hanford site. In February, DOE held a hearing about the proposed pipeline, yet, the agency failed to invite to the hearing any nearby private landowners whose farms and orchards could be used for the pipeline. Additionally, the pipeline (at up to 20 inches in diameter) appears to be excessively large for powering Hanford cleanup activities (the pipeline was originally proposed to power Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant). Local developers are publicly asking for future natural gas-fired power plants at Hanford. However, the pipeline could exacerbate the flow of contaminated groundwater into the Columbia River.

Riverkeeper is asking DOE to hold an open and transparent public review of its pipeline proposal. We were surprised and disappointed that local property owners near the pipeline were not contacted by DOE. Moreover, we have urged DOE to explain whether the proposed pipeline is for Hanford cleanup efforts or future gas-fired power. With billions of dollars invested in Hanford cleanup, we deserve to know DOE’s future plans for the site.

Please read Riverkeeper’s comments on the pipeline to understand how this pipeline could complicate cleanup efforts.

For More Information, Please Contact: Dan Serres (503) 890-2441