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
Washington must fight Trump on its key issues, Murray says
Sen. Patty Murray says the state must be ready to fight Trump on key state issues.
Some technical issues resolved at Hanford vit plant
The U.S. Department of Energy has resolved three key technical issues that have delayed construction on a major Hanford Nuclear Reservation plant.
Washington bill would help certain sick Hanford workers
Washington state lawmakers are considering a measure to help former nuclear site workers with certain illnesses receive the needed care and compensation.
Trial delayed for Hanford chemical vapors case
A federal judge has again pushed back the trial date for a lawsuit over employee concerns about exposure to chemical vapors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. KNDU-TV reported Monday that …
Radioactive spread halts Hanford nuclear facility demolition
The demolition of a major plutonium plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state has been put on pause after radioactive contamination spread outside the facility. The
Hanford vapors lawsuit heading to mediation
Parties in a lawsuit seeking better protection for Hanford workers from chemical vapors have agreed to pursue mediation, according to court documents filed Wednesday. Plaintiffs and defendants have asked U.S. …
Hanford contractor agrees to pay $5.3 million to settle timecard fraud
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that a contractor has agreed to pay $5.3 million to settle allegations that it knowingly bilked the government through a time-card scheme that …
Report finds little progress to address Hanford vapor concerns
RICHLAND, Wash. – It appears that little progress is being made to address employee concerns about exposure to chemical vapors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The Department of Energy’s Office …
Congressional delegation urges Trump to fund Hanford work
The entire congressional delegation from Washington is asking President-elect Donald Trump to make environmental cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation a priority. Hanford for years made plutonium for nuclear weapons, …
New problem arises at Hanford
The following abridged versions of editorials do not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board. Walla-Walla Union Bulletin
Washington nuclear power plant sets generation record
A Washington nuclear power plant has set a record for annual generation despite two unexpected outages in 2016.
Radioactive contamination spreading in closed Hanford plant, REDOX
Radioactive contamination is spreading inside a deteriorating processing plant on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Progress made to resolve Hanford vit plant technical issues
Progress is being made to resolve the technical issues that have stopped some construction at the Hanford vitrification plant since 2012. The Department of Energy and its contractor, Bechtel National, …
A glimmer of hope at Hanford
There is no telling how seriously the Trump administration will take the threat at Hanford, but there is little question that the departure of retiring Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is …
Work restarts to empty Hanford tank with inside leak
Work resumed despite recent frigid temperatures to empty an underground tank at Hanford with radioactive waste leaking between its double shells.
Energy Department raises price tag to $16 billion for Hanford plant
The price tag for a long-delayed facility to treat dangerous radioactive wastes left over from the production of nuclear weapons has climbed from $12 billion to $16.8 billion, making it …
Richland nuclear plant barred from shipping waste after incident
Energy Northwest is temporarily barred from sending waste to a commercial disposal site at Hanford after a shipment in November had more radioactivity than reported.
Trump team asks about Hanford, national labs
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has asked about the Hanford vitrification plant in a questionnaire circulated at the Department of Energy, along with questions about the work of national laboratories …
Feds begin special inspection of Richland nuclear plant
Federal regulators will begin inspecting the Columbia Generating Station after the nuclear plant shipped waste that had higher radioactivity than was reported.
Energy Department at risk of missing Hanford deadlines
The U.S. Department of Energy is at risk of missing new court-enforced deadlines for emptying some radioactive waste storage tanks on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Trial date pushed back for Hanford chemical vapors case
A nonjury trial for a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington and other parties over increased protections for workers on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been postponed.
More Hanford workers report possible tank vapors
Three more Hanford workers reported smelling a suspicious, ammonia-like odor Thursday afternoon in central Hanford and received medical evaluations.
Hanford workers don’t trust vapor management, report says
Many workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation do not trust the way the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractor are managing the issue of chemical vapors that are sickening …
Hanford vapor lawsuit may be delayed again
The state of Washington and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed over Hanford chemical vapor protection have asked that the trial be delayed five months.
Washington’s Manhattan Project park celebrates first year
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Hanford is a year old and proving to be quite popular.
Federal prosecutors: Hanford contractors to pay $125 million settlement
Federal prosecutors say Bechtel National Inc. and a subcontractor have agreed to pay $125 million to settle a lawsuit alleging subpar work in the construction of a nuclear waste treatment …
Some Hanford workers think twice about raising vapor issues
Some Hanford workers said they had concerns about raising issues related to possible chemical vapor exposures during a review by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General.
Judge denies request for increased Hanford vapor protections
A federal judge has denied a request from the state of Washington for increased protections for workers on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation while a lawsuit against the Department of Energy …
Hanford takes $23 million step toward safer radioactive waste storage
Work is moving ahead to remove radioactive capsules at Hanford from storage in a water-filled pool that could be at risk in a severe earthquake.
Motion to dismiss Hanford lawsuit rejected by federal judge
A federal judge has rejected the U.S. Department of Energy’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Washington state over worker safety issues on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Demolition begins on Hanford plutonium plant
The demolition of a major plutonium plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is underway.
Hanford deadline extended for radioactive waste tank farm caps
The Department of Energy was given three more years to build four large barriers over the ground at the Hanford tank farms to help contain spilled or leaked radioactive and …