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Radioactive Waste Contamination of Soil and Groundwater at the Hanford Site



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Radioactive Waste Contamination of Soil and Groundwater at the Hanford Site Laura A Hanson University of Idaho Principles of Environmental Toxicology November 2000 Abstract The Hanford Site in southeastern Washington State is the location of the largest nuclear waste storage area in the United States Since plutonium production facilities at Hanford were shut down in 1987 cleaning up the leftover waste at the Hanford Site has become one of the largest environmental cleanup projects in history Legal political technical and social aspects of the cleanup contribute to the overall complexity of the situation There is however a sense of urgency surrounding the cleanup efforts Of the 177 underground nuclear waste storage tanks on the Hanford Site 67 are known to be leaking currently and a large proportion of the tanks are at or approaching the end of their design lives Cleanup efforts are presently focused on removing the waste from the storage tanks and immobilizing it for long term storage While it remains a primary concern it is currently unknown what the long term ecological consequences of the leaked nuclear wastes will be 1 Introduction 1 1 The Hanford Site In June 1942 the Manhattan Engineer District of the Army Corps of Engineers was instructed to locate a site where industrial facilities for a secret weapons project would be built The Hanford Nuclear Reservation which encompasses 560 square miles in southeastern Washington State was established as the location for the plutonium production site in March 1943 The site was separated into several regions where different activities would take place Figure 1 Within two years nuclear reactors processing facilities support facilities underground waste storage tanks and nuclear fuel fabrication facilities had been constructed and were in operation to produce plutonium fuel for military defense Gephart and Lundgren 1998 Between its establishment in 1943 and deactivation in 1987 approximately 110 000 tons of nuclear fuel



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