In 1943, the federal government chose Hanford, in Washington state, to make plutonium for the Manhattan Project, a secret wartime effort to build an atomic bomb. That military mission ended in 1988, launching a cleanup effort that continues to this day. In 1994, S-R reporters Karen Dorn Steele and Jim Lynch wrote a five-day series called Wasteland detailing the money spent on Hanford’s cleanup.
In an agreement reached in the early days of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government agreed to indemnify the nuclear contractors making plutonium at Hanford, including corporate giants General Electric and E.I. DuPont de Nemours.
That means U.S. taxpayers have also been paying the legal bills for the Hanford contractors’ defense in lawsuits by “downwinders” who say they were sickened by pollution from the facility – over $60 million so far – as well as any settlements to individual plaintiffs and favorable verdicts in the Hanford case.
The B Reactor was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor and produced the plutonium used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. This World War II-era file photograph taken by the federal government shows the B reactor during its early plutonium production days. It was shut down in 1968 and in 2008 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Latest updates in this topic
State of Washington opposes nuke waste reclassification proposal
The state of Washington said Tuesday it opposes a federal proposal to reclassify some radioactive waste on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation because it fears much of the waste will be …
Tri-City company awarded $152 million Hanford contract
The Department of Energy has awarded a Hanford contract valued at up to $152 million to a Kennewick company.
Trump plan to reclassify nuke waste alarms environmentalists
The Trump administration has proposed reclassifying some radioactive waste left from the production of nuclear weapons to make disposal cheaper and easier.
Explosion kills 1 in Idaho. Same firm handles radioactive waste at Hanford
U.S. Ecology has a site on the Hanford nuclear reservation just north of Richland, but the work there is different than at the Idaho site that had an explosion on …
2,000 people agree: DOE plan for Hanford tank waste is not good
More than 2,000 people submitted comments or signed petitions critical of a proposal for closing Hanford’s underground radioactive waste storage tanks, according to a coalition of environmental and Hanford watchdog …
Whistleblower case nets $389,355 fine from computer contractor at Hanford
Based on a case brought by whistleblowers, a company that was supposed to provide a functional electronic-medical-records system for Hanford has agreed to pay $389,355 to resolve allegations that it …
Here’s why over 500 Hanford workers had to take cover Friday
More than 500 workers in the center of the Hanford nuclear reservation were ordered to take cover indoors Friday morning after steam was spotted rising from a radioactive waste storage …
Take cover alert lifted at Hanford nuclear site
A take cover order that lasted about four hours has been lifted for Hanford nuclear reservation workers.
State approves request to fill aging Hanford tunnel
The Department of Energy has been cleared to immediately begin stabilizing a tunnel containing highly radioactive waste that is at risk of collapse.
State approves federal plan to stabilize second Hanford tunnel containing radioactive equipment
State regulators have approved a request by the U.S. Department of Energy to begin work stabilizing a tunnel at Hanford that contains rail cars loaded with radioactive equipment and is …
Trump signs spending bill to increase Hanford budget
President Trump signed spending bills Friday that include a budget increase for the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Feds agree to protect Hanford workers from dangerous gases
The federal government will try to control, capture and eliminate dangerous vapors coming out of the nuclear waste tanks on the Hanford Reservation as a way to avoid a pending …
This lawsuit would protect Hanford workers from deadly vapors. Now there’s a settlement
A settlement agreement has been reached in a 3-year-old lawsuit filed by Washington state to better protect workers from chemical vapors at the Hanford nuclear reservation, state Attorney General Bob …
Work to demolish Hanford plutonium plant could resume next week
Work to demolish a former nuclear weapons production plant in Washington state could resume next week, nearly nine months after a spread of radioactive contamination forced a shutdown.
Hanford’s new budget is out. Trump isn’t going to be happy
A final spending bill for next year puts the Hanford nuclear reservation budget at $2.4 billion, well above the amount proposed by the Trump administration.
Wildfire burns at Hanford nuclear reservation
A wildfire burned an estimated 3,000 acres on the Hanford nuclear reservation early Saturday morning, and a larger fire was burning uncontained on Saddle Mountain.
There’s a problem with the records on 12,000 Hanford wells, audit finds
Hanford needs to do a better job in recording the status of the site’s approximately 12,000 wells that are either decommissioned or in use, according to a new audit report …
Second Hanford radioactive tunnel collapse expected. And it could be more severe
The possible collapse of a second Hanford tunnel storing radioactive waste is both more likely than thought a year ago and the effects potentially more severe, according to Hanford officials.
Fire at Hanford lab sends 2 workers to hospital
A fire at a laboratory on a former nuclear weapons production site has sent two workers to the hospital.
Plutonium-contaminated equipment taken into Richland by mistake
A radiologically contaminated piece of equipment left the Hanford nuclear reservation and was taken into north Richland by mistake, according to a message sent Wednesday afternoon to Hanford employees.
Hanford contractor agrees to pay fine for accepting illegal kickbacks
The Chief Financial Officer of one of the prime contractors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has agreed to pay $124,440 to resolve allegations that he accepted more than $40,000 in …
Hanford plan will leave land so clean you could put a house on it, feds say
A final plan for cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation at the horn of the Columbia River will leave land clean enough to live on.
Feds tell Hanford contractor: ‘Don’t spend money unless we OK it’
Bechtel National is prohibited from making many large purchases at the Hanford vitrification plant without case-by-case Department of Energy approval after concerns were raised in an audit.
Hanford fire captains say their paychecks have been shortchanged
A dozen current or former Hanford fire captains or platoon sergeants are suing their employer over pay.
More Hanford nuclear waste tanks at risk of leaking
More of Hanford’s newest waste storage tanks could be at risk of developing leaks, according to a new evaluation.
Just north of Richland is one of state’s most endangered historic places
One of Washington state’s most endangered historic places is located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland.
How empty are Hanford’s nuclear waste tanks? Not enough, says watchdog
A Hanford watchdog group is objecting as the Department of Energy takes the first step toward a plan to fill underground, radioactive waste storage tanks with concrete-like grout and leave …
Settlement reached in lawsuit over Hanford contracts
A former Hanford Nuclear Reservation contractor has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit involving millions of dollars in contracts intended for small businesses.
Wildfire burns through Hanford nuclear complex
A wildfire burned about 4.4 square miles of the decommissioned Hanford nuclear production complex in Washington.
Billions of Hanford dollars will stay separate under defense bill
The Department of Energy’s two Hanford offices would remain separate at least through 2024 under the defense spending authorization act approved by the U.S. House.
Despite spread of radioactive contamination, Hanford contractor earns $10 million
A Hanford environmental cleanup contractor has earned $9.9 million in incentive pay from the Department of Energy for its work at the nuclear reservation.
Ghost town bank lives again at nuclear reservation. You can visit
The bank in the ghost town of White Bluffs on the Hanford nuclear reservation has been rehabilitated and can be seen on Manhattan Project National Historical Park tours.