Arrow-right Camera

Topics

Hanford

Summary

Tumbleweeds pile up against the fence of the first production reactor built alongside the Columbia River at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in this 1994 photo by Christopher Anderson.

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.

Key places

  • B Reactor

    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.

More information

Latest updates in this topic


  • Hanford contractors announce hiring plans

    Hanford contractors say they are making quick work of identifying candidates for at least 600 positions they expect to fill in about the next six weeks with federal money to …


  • Hanford project receives cleanup stimulus

    RICHLAND – The Department of Energy plans to spend about $2 billion in stimulus money to speed some of the cleanup at Washington’s highly contaminated Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Hanford will …


  • Hanford to receive nearly $2B for cleanup

    RICHLAND — The Department of Energy plans to spend about $2 billion in stimulus money to speed up cleanup at south-central Washington’s highly contaminated Hanford Nuclear Reservation.


  • All Hanford nuclear reservation tours booked

    The free public tours of the Hanford nuclear reservation are all booked. Radio station KONA reports all 2,500 slots were filled Monday morning by online registration.


  • Hanford active area may shrink

    KENNEWICK – The Department of Energy is proposing shrinking the portion of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation that will need long-term active management to as little as 10 square miles at …


  • 9th Circuit sides with state on Hanford waste

    The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the state of Washington does have authority over certain radioactive waste mixed with hazardous chemicals at Hanford.


  • Court upholds state’s waste authority

    Washington state has authority to regulate mixed hazardous and transuranic wastes buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. The decision upholds an …


  • Washington state, feds agree on Hanford cleanup

    KENNEWICK, Wash. — State and federal officials have agreed to new deadlines for cleaning up groundwater and some radioactive waste areas at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, but a …


  • A time of transition at Hanford

    RICHLAND – Each year, the federal government spends roughly $2 billion to rid the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site of toxic and radioactive waste. Now, winds of change are blowing …


  • Contract extended for Hanford services

    Fluor Hanford’s contract to provide support services at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been extended six months. The Energy Department’s action keeps about 1,700 Fluor employees working on utilities, security, …


  • Ruling may clear way for Hanford payout

    The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Hanford Nuclear Reservation contractors in the massive downwinders lawsuit, raising hopes for a legal settlement for as many as 2,000 radiation-exposed …


  • Ruling backs downwinders

    A major ruling Friday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for 1,000 to 2,000 Hanford “downwinders” to sue Hanford contractors for radiation damages.


  • New downwinder trials ordered

    Three of six “bellwether” plaintiffs in a massive lawsuit over the health impact of radioactive emissions from Hanford during nuclear weapons production will get new trials and a fourth will …


  • Verdict may help downwinders

    The half-billion dollar Valentine’s Day federal jury verdict in the Rocky Flats nuclear contamination case puts more pressure on the government to settle its remaining cases, including the big Hanford …


  • Jury rejects Rhodes’ lawsuit

    A federal jury on Wednesday rejected the claims of Shannon Rhodes, a Coeur d’Alene woman who said she was exposed as a child on the Palouse to clouds of radiation …


  • Hanford witness faced lawsuit

    A doctor testifying for Hanford contractors that people exposed to low doses of radiation from the nuclear facility are unlikely to get thyroid cancer was sued for unethical conduct in …


  • Hanford workers’ comp claims will get federal review

    YAKIMA – A federal institute has agreed to review workers’ compensation benefits available to former weapons workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., requested the review …


  • Downwinder has burden of proof, defense lawyer says

    Shannon Rhodes of Coeur d’Alene has a rare form of thyroid cancer that was not caused by radioactive contamination from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the 1940s, a lawyer for …


  • Downwinder expected to die within 2 years

    The federal jury empaneled Monday in a retrial for Hanford downwinder Shannon Rhodes was told her aggressive thyroid cancer cannot be stopped and she is expected to die within two …


  • Stakes are high as downwinder’s trial gets started

    Shannon Rhodes of Coeur d’Alene, a farm child from Colfax, Wash., who was exposed to dangerous airborne radiation from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the 1940s and later developed thyroid …


  • Hanford verdict upsets lead juror

    Justice was not served in the recent Hanford downwinders’ trial when the jury deadlocked over a Coeur d’Alene woman whose thyroid cancer returned aggressively during the trial without the jury’s …


  • Hanford illness claims split jury

    Six Inland Northwest residents received a split decision Thursday in the long-running legal battle over the health effects of the federal government’s nuclear weapons program. But it’s uncertain how that …


  • Hanford downwinder case goes to jury

    After nearly two days of arguments by attorneys on whether doctors or scientists are more believable, the case of six Washington residents who say they were injured by radiation from …


  • Hanford companies deny radiation impact

    Companies that ran the nuclear weapons production at Hanford are trying to deny their radiation made people sick much the way the tobacco industry denied smoking caused lung cancer, attorneys …


  • ”Downwinders” get day in court

    After 15 years of waiting for their day in court, six “downwinders” who claim their health was ruined by invisible radiation clouds from Hanford’s plutonium plants met the jury that …


  • Attorneys spar in Hanford hearing

    Lawyers for Hanford contractors have committed a “fraud on the court” by hiding documents that show how a major study of Hanford radiation releases was set up to defend the …


  • Radiation study set up as defense, records show

    A $27 million Hanford study that was the first to estimate radiation doses to the public from a U. S. weapons complex was touted as unbiased and scientifically neutral when …


  • Hanford: cleaning up mess will require better management

    Last of five parts In the 21st century, nuclear undertakers will bury Hanford’s bomb-making past in the desert soil. They will demolish the brooding gray plutonium reactors that sucked water …


  • Hanford’s plutonium finishing plant

    The Plutonium Finishing Plant was built in 1951 to turn plutonium-rich liquids into solid forms that fuel the guts of nuclear bombs. The secret, heavily-guarded facility was code-named Z Plant. …


  • Whistleblower found himself out of a job

    When Michael Bott flagged a Hanford accounting violation seven years ago, he thought he’d be praised. He was wrong. Nine months after Bott objected to more than $200,000 in improperly …


  • Hanford: Lawyers get rich on fees paid by taxpayers

    Fourth of five parts On a winter’s night in 1992, five lawyers sat down to dinner at Ray’s Boathouse, a fancy Seattle restaurant with a stunning view of Puget Sound …


  • Hanford: the money trail

    Third of 5 parts The new luxury homes, shimmering ponds and golf course greens loom above the golden desert like an opulent mirage. Across town in the Tri-Cities, Cadillacs, Pontiacs, …