The U.S. Department of Energy offers free, four-hour bus tours of the Hanford site. The tours discuss Hanford’s role in the top-secret Manhattan project - the race by the United States and its allies during World War II to produce an atomic bomb before the Germans. The tours also discuss the long-running efforts to clean up the 586-square mile site’s radioactive and chemical wastes. Map points are approximate locations of tour stops.
Stop #1: Cold Test Facility
This facility is a scaled mockup of one of the older, single-shell nuclear waste storage tanks at Hanford. Workers can use simulated waste materials to test new equipment and technologies for removing waste at the site's 177 underground storage tanks. Note: map location is approximate
Stop #2: B Reactor National Historic Landmark
The B Reactor was the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor. It was part of the U.S. government's top secret Manhattan Project, created during World War II in a race against Nazi Germany to split the atom and create nuclear bombs. Plutonium from the B Reactor was used in the first atomic blast, the 1945 Trinity test in New Mexico, and for the "Fat Man" bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, to end World War II. The B Reactor continued to produce plutonium for the Cold War into the 1960s. It achieved National Historic Landmark status in 2008. Note: map location is approximate
Stop #4: Plutonium Finishing Plant
This plant was the end of the line in the plutonium production process at Hanford. The facility produced nearly two-thirds of the nation's supply of plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons program during the Cold War. The facility operated between 1949 and the late 1980s. About 70 percent of the facility has been deactivated and cleaned out to prepare it for demolition in the next two years. Workers wear special suits and respirators to protect them from highly hazardous levels of plutonium and other radioactive material as they clean out plutonium processing equipment so it can be removed from the facility, either prior to demolition or during demolition. Note: map location is approximate
Stop #5: Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility
This massive landfill is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Built in 1996, ERDF accepts low-level radioactive, hazardous, and mixed wastes that are generated during the cleanup activities at the site. It does not accept any non-Hanford waste. Approximately 16 million tons of contaminated soil and debris from cleanup have been disposed of in ERDF since it opened in 1996. Most of the waste came from hundreds of buildings that have been torn down and hundreds of waste sites that have been cleaned up near the Columbia River, which flows through the site.
Note: map location is approximate
Stop #6: Waste Treatment Plant
Bechtel National Inc. is designing and building the world's largest radioactive waste treatment plant for the U.S. Department of Energy. When complete, the plant will process and stabilize 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste currently stored at the Hanford site in 177 large underground tanks. Waste will be blended with glass-forming materials and heated to 2,100 degrees. In the glass form, the waste's radioactivity will dissipate over hundreds to thousands of years. Once operational, the plant is expected to complete its mission within 40 years. Note: map location is approximate
Stop #3: 200 West Groundwater Treatment System
This treatment system is cleaning up one of the largest plumes of contaminated groundwater at Hanford. It removes nitrates and metals, as well as radioactive and organic components. Over the life of the system, an estimated 25 billion gallons of groundwater will be treated. Note: map location is approximate