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
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.
2 gallons of radioactive nuclear waste done. 56M gallons to go.
Researchers in Richland have done what the $17 billion vitrification plant at Hanford is intended to do – turn radioactive waste into a solid glass form.
$100 million lawsuit filed over Hanford pensions
A class-action lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of Hanford workers who lost pension benefits under a failed economic development program.
US officials slam Washington state nuke waste site problems
U.S. investigators have said that problems first identified six years ago at a Washington state plant where deadly nuclear waste would be treated continue to plague the multi-billion dollar facility.
Settlement of Hanford subcontracting lawsuit in limbo. Feds may fight more delays
No settlement agreement between a former Hanford contractor and the U.S. Department of Justice was filed in federal court by a Friday deadline.
Doubts raised that massive Hanford plant could open by 2022
The U.S. Department of Energy has doubts that a massive nuclear waste treatment plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation can open by a 2022 deadline.
U.S. demands proof steel is safe in Hanford nuclear plant
The federal government is demanding that the company building a giant nuclear waste treatment plant in Washington state provide records proving that the steel used in the nearly $17 billion …
This Nagasaki bomb survivor visits Hanford. ‘Do you understand my heart?’
Mitsugi Moriguchi stepped inside Hanford’s historic B Reactor on Friday, nearly every inch of his body covered in gear designed to protect against radiation. The memories of 72 years ago …
Report says radioactive monitors failed at Hanford nuclear plant
A new report says mistakes and mismanagement are to blame for the exposure of workers to radioactive particles at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.
Trump administration proposes $230M cut for Hanford
The Trump administration is proposing a $230 million cut in cleanup spending at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in fiscal 2019.
Hanford workers report smelling vapors for 2nd day in a row
For the second day in a row, workers have reported mysterious odors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation tank farms.
Five workers at Hanford Site report suspicious smell
Workers at a former nuclear production complex in Washington state have reported smelling a suspicious odor.
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.