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
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.
Kennewick builder wins $11.3M Hanford contract
Apollo Inc. of Kennewick has been awarded an $11.3 million subcontract to prepare the Hanford building sitting above a highly radioactive spill for the installation of cleanup equipment.
Former Hanford worker awarded $8 million in retaliation case
A Benton County Superior Court jury awarded $8.1 million to former Hanford manager Julie Atwood in a verdict Tuesday afternoon.
Wife of business head agrees to pay $235,000 after exposed as shell company at Hanford
The wife of a vice president of a company that already paid a $2 million settlement has agreed to pay $235,000 after a whistle blower showed she headed the shell …
Richland nuclear plant OK’d to ship radioactive waste
Energy Northwest has had its privileges to ship radioactive waste to a commercial disposal site on the Hanford nuclear reservation reinstated.
Crews start injecting grout into collapsed Hanford tunnel
Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have started injecting grout into a partially collapsed tunnel that contains radioactive wastes left over from the production of nuclear weapons.
Researchers using Hanford gravitational waves lab win Nobel Prize in Physics
Three American physicists won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work discovering gravitational waves, bolstering Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Judge won’t restore pensions for retired Hanford workers
A federal court ruling says the Department of Energy had no obligation to continue full pension benefits for Hanford nuclear reservation workers who were required to switch from one employer …
Whistleblower helps secure $2 million settlement over contract rigging at Hanford
A whistleblower has been paid $470,000 out of a $2 million settlement after successfully challenging what she and government prosecutors say was a shell company at the Hanford nuclear site.
Hanford waste dug up, groundwater cleaned. Thanks go in part to retiring EPA official
The Tri-Cities’ top federal regulatory official for the Hanford nuclear reservation has retired after more than eight years in the job.
Energy Department penalized $16K over unidentified powder
The state of Washington has levied a $16,000 fine for failure to identify a white powder on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Hanford becomes comical punching bag for HBO’s John Oliver
Just days after Energy Secretary Rick Perry made his first trip to the Hanford nuclear reservation, HBO’s John Oliver used the polluted nuclear site as a satirical punching bag for …
Energy Secretary makes 1st Tri-City area stop, says it’s a chance to learn
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s visit to the Mid-Columbia is “an edification” – the chance to see firsthand the work being done at places like the Hanford nuclear reservation and …
Plutonium detected in air at Hanford nuclear reservation
State health officials say radioactive plutonium and americium have been found in air samples collected where workers enter the secure area of the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeastern Washington.
107 degrees. Heat-trapping gear. So why no heat illnesses at Hanford tank farms?
The temperature has soared to 107 degrees at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation this summer. In the tank farms, workers pull on three pairs of gloves, cover their faces with respirator …
Energy Northwest under ‘no touch’ order during heat wave
The Bonneville Power Administration asked Energy Northwest not to do any significant maintenance or surveillance that in any way would jeopardize the Columbia Generating Station from operating at 100 percent …
Preventing collapse of second Hanford radioactive waste tunnel on DOE’s priority list
The Department of Energy plans to step up monitoring of a Hanford tunnel storing highly radioactive waste while it studies ways to keep it from collapsing.
House passes better Hanford budget than Trump administration wanted
The U.S. House passed a package of appropriation bills that included a budget for the Hanford nuclear reservation for the next fiscal year before members scattered for a five-week summer …
Hanford workers exposed to vapors could seek help at proposed center
The Department of Energy would be required to establish a resource center to help Hanford workers exposed to chemical vapors, under proposed federal legislation.
“Her Royal Highness Queen Kathie” was tough, mean and loved by many
Longtime “Queen of the Bitches” Kathie Bross has passed away, her purple tiara passing to a successor.
Stack demolished at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant
A landmark on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is gone, after the big ventilation stack at the Plutonium Finishing Plant was demolished.
Cantwell says Hanford Reach no longer under federal review
Sen. Maria Cantwell says the Hanford Reach National Monument in eastern Washington is no longer under review for possible changes to the protections created for the natural landmark.
Richland nuclear plant cited for safety violation over waste shipment
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a “white” violation finding against the nuclear power plant near Richland related to a November radioactive waste shipping incident.
Aircraft fighting 20,000-acre wildfire near Hanford grounded after drone spotted
An aerial drone hampered efforts on Tuesday to extinguish a fire that recently crossed into the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Central Washington. The air tactical group noticed the drone hovering …
Senator questions Hanford plant subcontracting change
A U.S. senator is questioning the new subcontracting arrangement at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s vitrification plant. Bechtel National announced in January that it and its primary subcontractor were forming a …
Wildfire burning near Hanford site
A wildfire burning in Benton County, Washington, shut down roads and forced the evacuation of some workers at the Hanford nuclear site.
Second waste storage tunnel at Hanford is at risk of cave-in, regulators say
A second tunnel containing radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is “structurally deficient by almost every measure” and at risk of caving in, state regulators said Friday.