Hanford Quick Facts

For more information about the Hanford site, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Hanford site resources page

Overall site information

  • 560 square miles located in south central Washington state, near the Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco and Kennewick)
  • The Columbia River flows through Hanford for 51 miles
  • One million people live in 42 cities and towns on the Columbia River, down stream from the Hanford site
  • Approximately 8,000 farms are located in the counties downstream from Hanford The estimated value of these farms is $6.4 billion
  • The region below Hanford contributes to 10 percent of Washington's overall economy, and 30 percent of Oregon's economy.

Hanford work force facts

  • There are about 8,800 private-sector employees at work on the Hanford cleanup
  • They are employed by 13 private contractors
  • To manage the contractors, the Department of Energy employs approximately 340 people.
  • There are 3,339 private-sector employees working on the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) or associated facilities, or managing the high-level nuclear wastes in those tanks. This is down significantly over the past year, as budget cuts and management delays have occurred.
  • There are 50 federal Department of Energy employees overseeing the work on the WTP
  • Overall payroll for Hanford for the quarter ending June 2005 was $302 million

Basic Tank Waste Information

  • The site contains 177 single and double-shelled tanks with 53 million gallons of high level radioactive hazardous waste, equivalent to 2,650 rail cars full of waste
  • 149 single shell tanks contain 30 million gallons of waste, mostly salt cake and sludge with some liquid waste (2,846,000 gallons). Salt cake and sludge is waste that remains at the bottom of the tank after the liquid waste has been removed.
  • The pumpable liquids have been removed from most of the single shell tanks per the Interim Stabilization Consent Decree.
  • 7 tanks still have pumpable liquid levels, but at levels just above the agreed to interim stabilization criteria (less than 5000 gallons). One of these tanks is currently being pumped.
  • 28 double shell tanks contain 23 million gallons, most of which is sludge and liquid. The double shelled tanks are believed to be safer than the single shelled tanks.
  • 67 of the single shell tanks have leaked about 1 million gallons of highly radioactive waste into the ground. This waste is traveling through groundwater toward the Columbia River.
  • The leaks have resulted in extensive contamination of the soil under the tanks down to the groundwater 200 feet below.
  • All of the 12 Single Shell Tank Farms have contaminated the soil to some extent and most have contaminated groundwater to some extent.
  • Groundwater under two of the tank farms is contaminated with Technetium-99 at amounts many hundreds of times greater than the federal drinking water standard. Groundwater under a third tank farm contains uranium concentrations at amounts 20 times higher than the federal drinking water standard.
  • With the exception of the above tank farms, most of the contamination is currently still in the soil above the groundwater, but is moving downward toward the groundwater. There are some areas where Cobalt can be measured and the data show the contamination moving downward. The resulting groundwater plumes are currently small but with high concentrations of contaminants. These plumes are being fed by the past leaks into the soil above.
  • If cleanup does not proceed on schedule, the plume will reach the Columbia River in 12 to 50 years depending on location and type of contamination.

Tank waste removal - critical to success, plagued by delays

  • The first critical step is to finish removing the waste in the single shelled tanks to the double shelled tanks, where the risk of leaks is less. This step must occur before cleanup can proceed.
  • The Tri-Party Agreement requires all the waste be out of 149 Single Shell Tanks by 2018 and there is a series of supporting milestones and schedules to direct that work. This work is behind schedule.
  • C-Farm (16 tanks) is supposed to be emptied by September 2006. The current projection is that it will not be done until at least 2011.
  • Currently two S-farm tanks are being retrieved and both are behind schedule.
  • To date, three tanks have been retrieved right down to the steel. The retrieval technology has worked very well. Four tanks are currently being retrieved.
  • When the two S-farm tanks are retrieved and all of C farm is done Ð there will be no space left in the Double Shell Tanks. This is supposed to happen by 2008, but the work is behind schedule. Once the double shell tanks are full, no more retrieval will be possible until the Waste Treatment Plant is operating and starts emptying Double Shell Tanks.

Factors contributing to delays in cleanup:

  • Since 1989 when the Tri-Party agreement was signed, 11 Secretaries or Acting Secretaries have led the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • Since 1989, the government has had a revolving door of different contractors and a parade of different contracting approaches. The U.S. Department of Energy has tried:

    1) Cost-plus contracts
    2) Privatization
    3) Performance-based contracts

  • Since 1989, five prime contractors have worked on the Waste Treatment Plant:

    1) Westinghouse Hanford
    2) Lockheed Hanford
    3) British Nuclear Fuels Ltd
    4) LMAES
    5) Bechtel National, Inc.