Agencies Agree on Hanford Canyon Cleanup
YAKIMA, Wash. State and federal officials announced Tuesday a plan to clean up a highly contaminated World War II-era chemical plant at Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation.
The U-Plant Canyon, one of five massive processing facilities at Hanford, will be razed to ground level and the highly radioactive waste will be shipped to a repository in New Mexico, officials said Tuesday.
The rest of the building will be left underground, which reduces the risk of exposing workers to radiological and chemical contamination, said Keith Klein, manager of the Energy Department's Richland Operations Office.
The contaminated equipment will be sealed with grout and the underground area will be capped with soil and vegetation.
U Plant was one of the original processing canyons built during World War II. The building is 800 feet long, 70 feet wide and 80 feet high, with more than 30 feet underground. Its reinforced concrete floor is four feet thick.
"This is a commonsense approach that is strongly protective of human health and the environment," said Klein, who believes the plant's construction provides an excellent shield for the environment.
Cleanup is set to start in 2008.
The U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Ecology considered five cleanup proposals for the canyon, and agreed on this remedy after public hearings and reviewing multiple technical studies.
It is the first cleanup agreement at the Hanford site that will leave some waste in place.
The 586-square-mile Hanford site was created in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. The site produced the plutonium for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II, and for the nation's nuclear weapons program.
Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the country, with cleanup costs estimated between $50 billion and $60 billion.
Source: Associated Press