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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


  • Nuclear lessons: Hanford tours go to heart of Cold War facility

    RICHLAND – At Hanford’s B Reactor, thousands of graphite blocks towered over Ernie Doyle’s head. On a recent public tour, the 57-year-old truck driver from Hillsboro, Oregon, seized the chance …


  • Cause of symptoms in workers at Hanford elusive

    RICHLAND – About 12,000 air samples taken on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation this year after more than three dozen workers reported being sickened by chemical vapors have failed to find …


  • ‘Atomic Man’ room set for cleanup

    Workers are preparing to enter one of the more dangerous rooms on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation – the site of a 1976 blast that exposed a technician, later nicknamed the …


  • Feds reject state plan for Hanford cleanup

    OLYMPIA — Washington rejected the U.S. Energy Department’s latest plan for the cleanup of leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal government, in turn, rejected the state’s counteroffer, …


  • Inslee threatens legal action on Hanford

    OLYMPIA – Northwest residents need more than vague plans and missed deadlines for the cleanup of nuclear waste at Hanford, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday. If the federal government doesn’t …


  • Washington state tells feds to hurry up on leaking Hanford tank

    OLYMPIA – Washington wants the federal government to start pumping radioactive sludge out of a leaking tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation by September rather than waiting a couple of …


  • Federal Hanford cleanup plan falls short, Gov. Jay Inslee says

    OLYMPIA – The federal government’s latest plan to clean up nuclear waste at Hanford is short on details and the state is considering its options to force a better one, …


  • Hanford contractors decline to comment on whistleblowers

    WASHINGTON – Contractors handling the cleanup and redevelopment of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation wouldn’t answer questions from lawmakers on Tuesday about whether two employees were fired for raising safety concerns. …


  • Hanford cleanup money cut back in Obama budget plan

    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has proposed cutting $67 million from efforts to clean up the Hanford nuclear waste site, drawing the ire of lawmakers from both sides of the …


  • Hanford 300 Area cleanup plan released

    The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday issued its final cleanup plan for the 300 Area of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons and …


  • Editorial: Hanford cleanup’s toxic legacy continues

    The U.S. Energy Department says fat chance of meeting interim deadlines for cleaning up the nuclear site that produced Fat Boy, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, which accelerated the …


  • Oregon Sen. Wyden wants Hanford whistle-blower answers

    Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on Wednesday demanded to know why a Hanford Nuclear Reservation whistle-blower has lost his job. Walter Tamosaitis last week was laid off by URS Corp. after …


  • More Hanford cleanup delays, agency warns

    The U.S. Department of Energy is proposing more delays in the cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation’s most-polluted nuclear site, the agency said Wednesday. The Energy Department issued …


  • Hanford whistleblower says layoff was retribution

    KENNEWICK – Hanford whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis was laid off last week after 44 years of employment with URS Corp., he said. Three years ago he lost his position as research …


  • 6 Hanford workers go to hospital as precaution

    RICHLAND — Six Hanford workers were taken to a Richland hospital Wednesday as a precaution after an unknown liquid spilled on some of them as they were dismantling piping in …


  • One of last Hanford 300 Area buildings coming down

    RICHLAND – One of the final buildings that will be demolished in the Hanford 300 Area is coming down. An industrial city once stood just north of Richland to support …


  • Court orders work to continue on Yucca repository

    The federal government must resume work on a repository in Nevada that would take the high-level nuclear waste from Hanford, a federal court said today.


  • Inslee: Speed up Hanford cleanup

    Gov. Jay Inslee called for the federal government to speed up plans to clean up nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation after reports that highly radioactive liquid may have …


  • Double-walled tank at Hanford may be leaking

    An underground tank holding some of the worst radioactive waste at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site might be leaking into the soil.


  • Fixes promised for waste plant

    RICHLAND – Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Wednesday he intends to have a new plan by the end of the summer for resolving technical problems with a waste treatment plant …


  • Energy secretary to visit Hanford

    RICHLAND — New Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was set to make his first visit today to the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site since being confirmed by the Senate last month.


  • Plant may lack space for Hanford waste

    A national repository may run out of space for the hottest radioactive waste it was designed to store if changes are not made, according to an audit by the Department …


  • Ten managers indicted in Hanford timecard scheme

    RICHLAND – A federal grand jury has indicted 10 current or former managers and supervisors for a contractor at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, accusing them of enabling timecard …


  • Hanford contractor CH2M Hill to pay $18.5 million for fraud

    Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday a deal to have the world’s largest engineering firm, CH2M Hill, pay $18.5 million to resolve criminal and civil violations arising from a scheme to overbill …


  • Hanford waste may move

    RICHLAND – Federal officials are looking to ship some 3 million gallons of radioactive waste from Washington state to New Mexico, giving the government more flexibility to deal with leaking …


  • Budget cuts threaten work at leaking nuke tanks

    RICHLAND, Wash. — Washington’s governor prepared to travel to the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site to learn more about leaking radioactive waste tanks there today, a day after federal officials …


  • Spin Control: Explaining Hanford takes pivot to hoops

    OLYMPIA – As most of official Olympia stared at their computers Thursday morning awaiting the state Supremes’ decision on tax supermajorities, a handful of legislators got a briefing on something …


  • Inslee: Six nuke-waste tanks leaking at Hanford

    YAKIMA — Six underground radioactive waste tanks at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site are leaking, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.


  • New Hanford leak found

    OLYMPIA – A new leak has been discovered in a nuclear waste storage tank at Hanford. Gov. Jay Inslee, in a hastily called news conference, said he was advised of …


  • New leak discovered at Hanford

    A new leak has been discovered in a nuclear waste storage tank at Hanford, authorities disclosed today.


  • Report rips Hanford work

    RICHLAND – A strongly worded new report from a congressional watchdog agency questions whether an often-delayed and increasingly expensive waste treatment plant at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site can …


  • Hanford manager replaced

    RICHLAND – A top U.S. Department of Energy manager at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been replaced by the manager of the department’s Los Alamos Site Office in New Mexico. …