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
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.
DOE names new acting head of Hanford, other nuclear cleanup projects
An acting leader for the Department of Energy’s nationwide nuclear environmental cleanup program, including the Hanford nuclear reservation, was named on Tuesday.
More Hanford nuclear mishaps likely, official says
Future accidental radiation releases at the largest U.S. site of waste from nuclear weapons production are likely following back-to-back emergency evacuations of workers in May and June because aging infrastructure …
Hanford workers report possible chemical vapor exposure
Five Hanford workers received medical evaluations as a precaution after they and other workers reported suspicious odors that could indicate the presence of chemical vapors Tuesday morning at the nuclear …
Hanford workers report possible vapor exposure
Five Hanford workers received medical evaluations as a precaution after they and additional workers reported suspicious odors that could indicate the presence of chemical vapors at the nuclear reservation Tuesday …
State’s largest solar project to be built near Richland
The state’s largest solar power project will be built on former Hanford Nuclear Reservation land near Richland.
Radiation alarm prompts order for workers to seek cover
Radiation warning alarms sounded Thursday at a former plutonium production plant in Washington state, prompting a take-cover order that sent about 350 workers seeking cover indoors during the demolition of …
Partially collapsed Hanford tunnel to be filled with grout
A partially collapsed Hanford waste storage tunnel will be filled with grout to further stabilize it, the Department of Energy said Wednesday.
Bechtel earns $7.2 million in incentive pay for managing Hanford vit plant
The Department of Energy’s assessment of Bechtel National at Hanford continues to inch upward.
Contamination at Hanford tank did not come from leak
Radioactive contamination found on a piece of equipment on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was not the result of a leak in an underground nuclear waste storage tank.
Washington state lawmakers want review of Hanford cleanup
Lawmakers ask Government Accountability Office to review Hanford cleanup after tunnel collapse.
Department of Energy ends plans for test to dispose of Hanford waste capsules
The Department of Energy is dropping plans for a test meant to see if some Hanford nuclear waste could be disposed of in a deep borehole.
Trump proposes $120 million budget cut at Hanford despite trouble
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget includes a cut of about $120 million for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, despite two recent incidents that raised concern about worker safety at the former …
Washington Congress members worry Trump budget would cut Hanford cleanup
Last Friday, Washington members of Congress warned about cuts to the Hanford cleanup efforts. Now they’re bracing for proposed cuts when President Donald Trump’s budget is released Tuesday.
Crews cover partially-collapsed tunnel at nuclear site
Workers this weekend finished installing a protective cover over a partially-collapsed tunnel that contained radioactive waste on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the U.S. Department of Energy said Monday.
Radioactive contamination found on clothes of Hanford worker
A worker at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state got radioactive contamination on his clothing this week during an incident at an underground waste storage tank that indicated a …
Governors of Oregon, Washington seek more Hanford funding
The governors of Washington and Oregon are asking President Donald Trump to increase the funding for Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup efforts.
Cleanup at Idaho nuclear landfill on hold after pit collapse
BOISE, Idaho – Some cleanup efforts at a nuclear waste landfill in eastern Idaho are on hold while workers try to figure out what caused a collapse in a dig …
Waiting on the weather to cover Hanford waste tunnel
About 150 concrete ecology blocks were hauled by flatbed trucks to central Hanford over the weekend for the next step in stabilizing a partially collapsed tunnel holding radioactively contaminated waste.
Depression in Hanford tunnel discovered by radiation workers
Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation who questioned some unusual radiation readings are being credited with discovering the partial collapse of a waste storage tunnel last week.
Welcome to Nuketown USA: A look at the company town of the Hanford site
While a tunnel collapse over nuclear material at Hanford Nuclear Reservation made international news, it did little to shake a town full of residents who played a part in the …
Hanford continues to have truckload of woes
The beleaguered Hanford cleanup is a national embarrassment, with serious consequences for this region.
Hanford tunnel collapse prompts some to ask: What’s the long-term solution for nuclear waste?
Tuesday’s collapse of an earthen tunnel at Hanford highlights long-standing concerns about the ways in which nuclear waste is stored.
Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s collapsed tunnel may have gone unnoticed
A hole that was discovered this week on top of a nuclear waste storage tunnel has been plugged with dirt, ending an emergency situation at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, U.S. …
As workers fill collapsed tunnel at Hanford site, Inslee launches action against federal government
Workers have begun filling a caved in tunnel near the PUREX plant in the 200 East Area of the Hanford Site. About 50 truckloads of soil will be used to …
Hanford warned in 2015 study that contaminated rail car tunnels at risk of collapse
Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy was warned that two tunnels containing radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation were vulnerable to collapse.
Area around Hanford’s PUREX plant has been dumping ground for radioactive and chemical waste for years
For decades during the Cold War arms race, nuclear waste was dumped at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s sprawling 200 East and 200 West areas.
Hanford officials working on fix for hole in tunnel storing radioactive equipment
Hanford officials say they’re working on a fix for a gaping hole that appeared Tuesday in the roof of a storage tunnel containing rail cars full of radioactive equipment at …
Nuke waste debate: Turn it into glass or encase in cement?
A new report says Congress should consider authorizing the Department of Energy to use grout to stabilize some of Hanford’s radioactive waste, rather than a more expensive plan to turn …
GAO report says government not doing enough against fraud, including at Hanford
A new report says the U.S. Department of Energy isn’t doing enough to prevent fraud among its contractors, including at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Budget deal provides solid budget for Hanford
That bipartisan deal to fund the federal government through September would provide a solid budget for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation if approved this week.
Three accused of trespassing to collect elk antlers at Hanford
Three men have been accused of trespassing to collect deer and elk antlers on the Hanford nuclear reservation.