Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere and the world's largest environmental cleanup project.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is owned by the federal government and operated by the US Department of Energy (USDOE).
Cleanup at Hanford is a monumental task estimated by USDOE to cost at least $60 billion and take decades to complete.
The Hanford Reach (the part of the Columbia flowing through Hanford) is the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River where tens of thousands of salmon spawn each year. The Hanford Reach was designated as a national monument in 2000.
Sixty percent (by volume) of the nation's high-level radioactive waste is located at Hanford.
More than 67 metric tons of plutonium were produced at Hanford, contributing to a global stockpile of nuclear weapons that peaked in the mid-1980s.
Fifty-three million gallons of high-level radioactive and chemical waste are stored in 177 huge underground tanks. One third of these aging tanks are known to have leaked more than a million gallons of waste.
At least 200-square miles of groundwater beneath the site is contaminated and migrating to the Columbia River. An estimated 80-square miles are contaminated above drinking water standards.
Approximately 1900 waste sites have been identified at Hanford.
Radioactive and chemical contaminants released from Hanford and other weapons production sites across the nation have caused death and illness, including cancer from radiation and lung disease from beryllium exposure. In 2000, the USDOE acknowledged that workers at nuclear weapons plants may have been made ill, and those who suffered deserved to be compensated. Since then, thousands of claims have been filed.
Nearly 80 percent of the USDOE's national inventory of spent fuel rods was stored in basins just 400 yards from the Columbia River. The USDOE has moved the disintegrating fuel rods to a central location away from the river, but high-level radioactive debris remains in the basins.
The USDOE wants to import as much as 200,000 cubic meters of additional waste from around the nation to Hanford. This could double the amount of radioactive waste left at Hanford.
Washington voters passed initiative 297, now the Cleanup Priority Act, in November 2004. It was the biggest initiative win in state history, with 69% of the voters supporting it. The Cleanup Priority Act prevents the import of mixed radioactive waste to Hanford until existing waste is cleaned up.
Citizens have made a crucial difference in moving the Hanford cleanup forward. Our participation is essential to protect the public, workers, and the environment.