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


  • $12 billion may not be enough to finish Hanford plant

    The Department of Energy may not be able to complete the Hanford vitrification plant for the projected $12.2 billion, according to an internal DOE document.


  • DOE offers to settle claims

    The U.S. Department of Energy has tentatively agreed to settle the claims of 139 people with thyroid disease – the largest settlement so far in a massive civil suit brought …


  • U.S. settles with some Hanford downwinders

    The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to settle the claims of 139 people with thyroid disease — the largest settlement so far in a massive civil suit brought by …


  • Defense safety board criticizes Hanford project

    A lax safety culture that deters timely reporting and resolution of technical concerns is endangering the success of a $12.2 billion plant being built at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear …


  • Novel depicts radioactive waste spill at Hanford

    The plot: A deadly earthquake rips through the Hanford nuclear reservation, erupting a graveyard of radioactive waste and releasing a flood of doom that threatens thousands of Tri-Citians. A Silicon …


  • Lasting home elusive for used Hanford fuel

    Critics challenging the safety of Washington state’s only commercial nuclear power plant say it should not get its license renewed until all questions about the integrity of its spent fuel …


  • Hanford downwinder succumbs to illness

    Deborah Clark, who was among those suing Hanford contractors over her thyroid cancer, has died.


  • Plaintiffs’ lawyers decry Hanford payment offers

    Sparks flew in U.S. District Court in Spokane Wednesday over settlement offers to 234 people with thyroid cancer who were exposed to radiation from Hanford in the early rush to …


  • Hanford radiation plaintiff near death

    A woman suing Hanford contractors over her thyroid cancer, whose request for an expedited federal trial was denied last year by a Spokane judge, lies near death in a Longview, …


  • Hanford downwinder Clark moved to hospice care

    A woman suing Hanford contractors over her thyroid cancer, whose request for an expedited federal trial was denied last year by a Spokane judge, lies near death in a Longview, …


  • Deputies say deaths may be suicides

    The Chattaroy couple found dead in a trailer home Friday tried to commit suicide in mid-October by overdosing on medication, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said. The …


  • Heavy security part of Hanford plant’s past

    HANFORD, Wash. – The Plutonium Finishing Plant at Hanford has lost much of its sinister look. Metal detectors, razor wire, guns and dogs have become part of its past.


  • Highly contaminated soil found at Hanford

    Workers have found a nasty surprise beneath a Hanford building just north of Richland – highly contaminated soil from an undiscovered leak.


  • Workers find more radioactivity at Hanford site

    Workers cleaning up the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site have discovered an area of soil so radioactive it exceeds lethal limits tenfold, the U.S. Department of Energy announced today with …


  • Rail track recycling saves money on Hanford cleanup

    RICHLAND – Hanford railroad track, some of it more than a century old, is being pulled up to get yet another life – but after testing for radioactivity. Washington Closure …


  • Court approves new Hanford cleanup schedule

    The U.S. District Court in Spokane has approved a new schedule that delays the cleanup of radioactive waste from the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site by about 20 years.


  • DOE suggests tearing down reactor at Hanford

    RICHLAND – A key Department of Energy report is recommending that the K East Reactor be torn down rather than put into long-term storage like most of Hanford’s other reactors. …


  • Energy Department wants to remove Hanford reactor

    A key Department of Energy report is recommending that the K East Reactor be torn down rather than put into long-term storage like most of Hanford’s other reactors.


  • DOE: Hanford safety culture needs improvement

    Most workers believe the safety culture at the U.S. Department of Energy’s most expensive and most complex nuclear waste treatment plant is strong, but some worry they will face retaliation …


  • Hanford workers digging up hazardous wastes

    Work is nearly complete to help identify the type and amount of radioactive and hazardous materials at the 618-10 Burial Ground, one of the most hazardous sites on the Hanford …


  • DOE endorses Hanford B Reactor for national park

    Hanford’s historic B Reactor should be included in any Manhattan Project National Historical Park, along with key Department of Energy property in Tennessee and New Mexico, DOE has told the …


  • Outside view: For Hanford to improve, Yucca must be an option

    This commentary from the May 9 Tri-City Herald is presented in place of the customary Spokesman-Review editorial. They aren’t exactly breaking new ground. A coalition of Northwest environmental groups recently …


  • Wash. congressmen discuss nuclear fuel storage

    U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings and Jay Inslee say they will fight to keep the federal government from abandoning a proposed nuclear waste repository in Nevada.


  • Hanford deadlines changing

    TRI-CITIES, Wash. – The Department of Energy and its regulators have agreed to new legally binding environmental cleanup deadlines for radioactive waste that has been temporarily buried at central Hanford …


  • New Hanford radiation cleanup deadlines proposed

    The Department of Energy and its regulators have agreed to new legally binding environmental cleanup deadlines for radioactive waste that has been temporarily buried at central Hanford since 1970.


  • Washington sues to keep Yucca alive

    YAKIMA – Washington state filed suit Tuesday to stop the federal government from permanently abandoning the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, marking the latest clash in a long-standing dispute over …


  • Wash. sues to stop feds from abandoning Yucca

    Washington state has filed suit to stop the federal government from permanently abandoning the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, marking the latest clash in a long-standing dispute over where the …


  • Hanford waste stranded by Yucca Mountain decision

    The tanks are still there, 177 in all, packed with 53 million gallons of radioactive waste. One million gallons have leached into the desert soil.


  • Judge denies sick woman’s motion for speedy trial

    A judge today denied a sick woman’s motion for an expedited trial in the long-running Hanford “downwinders” lawsuits.


  • Sick downwinder seeks trial

    With the fingers of her right hand, Deborah Clark presses firmly on a gaping surgical hole in her neck. It’s the only way she can speak. The words that emerge …


  • Hanford’s risks are large

    Even after billions of dollars are spent cleaning up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, radioactive waste could threaten the Columbia River for thousands of years to come. A government analysis shows …


  • In brief: Energy Department to discuss Hanford

    The cleanup of underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will be the topic of a public meeting from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight at the Red Lion …