RICHLAND – Carcasses of animals used in radiological experiments at Hanford are among more than 40,000 tons of waste workers dug up and reburied on the nuclear reservation.
Closure Hanford remediation manager Mark Buckmaster told the Hanford Advisory Board last week that up to 1,000 animals at a time were kept at a farm near F Reactor along the banks of the Columbia River.
They included rodents, cats, dogs, cows, sheep, goats, pigs and alligators. No alligator carcasses were found, however. The remains and wastes were buried in large trenches.
The waste was reburied at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a lined landfill for low-level radioactive waste on the nuclear reservation.
The animal experiments started during World War II to learn the effect of radiation on people. Some were planned to learn about the health effects of radiation on workers, while others were for military purposes, Hanford records indicate.
The farm continued to operate during the Cold War into the 1970s.
Buckmaster said about 95 percent of the waste dug up from trenches was manure, much of which was contaminated with radioactive strontium 90.
Animal carcasses and sawdust also were recovered from the trenches. Only minimal radioactive contamination was found in the carcasses, he said.
Richland historian Michele Gerber has said the experiments initially were done on fish, but other species were included after the animal testing program expanded in the 1950s.
The largest testing program used sheep to determine the possible health effects of radioactive iodine released from Hanford stacks as irradiated fuel was processed to remove plutonium.
Different concentrations of radioactive iodine were included in the sheep’s feed during the program that lasted a decade, Gerber said.
Dogs were used for a time to test the health effects of breathing radioactive particles. Another program used hairless pigs to determine what might happen to soldiers if they entered a nuclear battlefield, she said.
Workers are doing the final cleanup of the animal farm trenches, which should be ready to backfill this summer, Buckmaster said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.