Arrow-right Camera

Topics

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


  • 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. …


  • Hanford documents show possible safety violations

    An investigation by the U.S. Energy Department has found that San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel may have committed a wide range of safety and health violations at a plant it …


  • Hanford offers sent to hundreds

    A law firm representing several nuclear contractors has sent confidential settlement offers to hundreds of plaintiffs exposed to radiation from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during World War II and the …


  • Energy chief to visit Hanford

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu plans to visit Hanford in June to hold a town hall and other meetings to discuss safety issues with vitrification plant workers. No date has been …


  • Hanford tower taken down during cleanup

    RICHLAND – A guard tower that stood over the Columbia River at Hanford for half a century came crashing to the ground Wednesday. “It’s really an iconic symbol of Hanford …


  • Hanford N Reactor guard tower pulled down

    RICHLAND — The historic Hanford guard tower that stood above the Columbia River for a half-century has been pulled to the ground.


  • Groups: Hanford study underpredicted levels

    A $27 million government study to estimate radiation doses received by the public from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s weapons factories is being called into question by other scientific organizations and …


  • Atomic Man still has lessons to teach after 35 years

    Thirty-five years after Hanford’s “Atomic Man” was sprayed with americium in the nuclear reservation’s worst radioactive accident, the case still has lessons for workers at the Department of Energy’s nuclear …