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
Health agency concerned about Hanford contamination spread
The Washington state Department of Health says there is a possible risk to the public if demolition of the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant continues without better controls to prevent the …
Department of Health concerned about Hanford radioactive contamination spread
The Washington state Department of Health says there is a possible risk to the public if demolition of the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant resumes without better controls to prevent the …
More radioactive contamination triggers management change at Hanford
The Department of Energy is replacing the managers of a critical radioactive clean-up project after the continued spread of contamination on the Hanford site.
Ill Hanford workers face a maze of benefit programs. This new center is coming to the rescue
The Department of Energy plans to open a new center in Richland to help ill Hanford workers and their survivors sort out their options for compensation and care.
$15M lawsuit filed over wildfire that threatened Hanford
Lower Yakima Valley cattle ranchers have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense for nearly $15 million for damage to their land and livelihood after a 2016 wildfire.
New tests show Hanford workers exposed to radiation
New test results show that monitoring for airborne radioactive contamination has not protected some Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers demolishing the Plutonium Finishing Plant.
Judge refuses to reduce $8.1M verdict against Hanford contractor
A judge is refusing to reduce the $8.1 million verdict against a Hanford Nuclear Reservation contractor and one of its employees.
Nuclear engineer to lead agency that oversees Hanford cleanup
President Donald Trump has nominated a new head for the Department of Energy’s environmental management program, which is responsible for the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Energy Department to permanently close damaged Hanford tank
The Energy Department says it will permanently close a damaged radioactive waste storage tank on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
New Hanford contract to care for 6,000 workers valued at $17.1M a year
The Department of Energy has put out a draft request for bids for a company to provide occupational medical and health services at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
More radioactively contaminated vehicles found at Hanford
The number of vehicles with specks of radioactive material has increased to 19 as checks continue at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant continue.
Kennewick mayor, Hanford contractor hit with $8.1M verdict. Now they want a retrial
A Department of Energy contractor and its employee, the Kennewick mayor, are asking for a new trial after a jury awarded $8.1 million for retaliation and discrimination against a former …
Senators want answers on Hanford radioactive contamination spread
The Hanford nuclear reservation workforce must have confidence that Hanford officials are putting safety ahead of legal deadlines and financial interests, said the U.S. senators for Washington state.
No nuclear contamination found at homes of Hanford workers
No radioactive contamination has been found at the homes of seven Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers that were surveyed this week.
Work delayed at Hanford project over worker safety
A major demolition project on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was halted for two days this week after air monitors worn by several workers showed they might have inhaled radioactive particles.
Trial delayed again in lawsuit involving Hanford vapors
Trial in a federal court lawsuit over chemical vapors on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been delayed again.
Possible worker radiation exposure at Hanford has halted a project
Demolition at a highly contaminated complex at the Hanford nuclear reservation has been halted.
Union agrees. Some Hanford chemical vapor protection can be reduced
The Hanford tank farm contractor and union leadership have agreed to ease respiratory restrictions around some of the nuclear reservation’s stored waste for the second time.
Survey says Tri-Cities a big fan of nuclear energy
The Tri-Cities really, really likes its nuclear energy.
3-year-old Hanford vapors lawsuit may be delayed again
Parties to the Hanford nuclear reservation chemical vapors lawsuit have asked a federal judge to delay the trial by 90 days, or more than three years after it was filed.
Workers finish cleaning up nuclear burial ground
Workers on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state have finished cleaning up one of the nation’s most contaminated radioactive waste sites, the U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday.
19 years later, Hanford’s 1st radioactive tank farm emptied
The Department of Energy looks to have finished a major project, emptying radioactive and hazardous chemical waste from an entire tank farm.
Nuclear safety board warns of trouble ahead at Hanford, but could lose role under Trump
An unfinished $16.8 billion complex to treat chemical and radioactive waste at the Hanford site in Central Washington continues to have problems that risk explosions and radioactive releases from unintended …
Where should Hanford be regulated from — Seattle or Tri-Cities?
The Environmental Protection Agency is advertising for a new Hanford nuclear reservation program manager, but the person may not live or work in the Tri-Cities.
Seven leaks found in Hanford’s oldest double-walled tank
Inspectors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in south-central Washington state have found at least seven leaks in the site’s oldest double-walled radioactive waste storage tank.
Bury Hanford mishaps for good
Most recently comes news that the state Department of Ecology is investigating the dumping of potentially contaminated liquid into the ground.
Four-month delay in details of plutonium release at Hanford raises questions
The announcement this month that 31 Hanford workers were contaminated from a June 8 incident is raising more questions about how government agencies alert the public about the test results …
State investigates possibly contaminated liquid dumped at Hanford
The Washington State Department of Ecology is investigating a report of potentially contaminated liquid dumped into the ground at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in August.
New manager picked for Hanford’s underground tanks
The U.S. Department of Energy has picked a new manager for its Office of River Protection on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
How Hanford is cleaned up could change under federal review
The Hanford-area community will be allowed to weigh in as the Department of Energy considers possible shifts in how environmental cleanup is done at Hanford, according to a DOE official …
31 Hanford workers test positive for radioactive contamination
Thirty-one Hanford nuclear reservation workers inhaled very small amounts of radioactive material after a take-cover order for a contamination spread June 8.
6 Hanford workers report smelling possible chemical vapors
Six workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation reported an onionlike smell Wednesday afternoon that may have been chemical vapors.