Washington state Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell last week recognized the workers of Hanford for completing a “milestone” clean-up on a high-hazard waste site at the nuclear reservation known as the 618-10 Burial Ground.
They joined Rep. Dan Newhouse in their acknowledgement of the employees who worked to complete the project, which the U.S. Department of Energy stated contained some of the most hazardous waste at Hanford.
They also urged federal officials to continue the department’s work on a long list of cleanup projects that include 1,000 waste sites, 500 facilities, and contaminated soil and groundwater on the Central Plateau, according to a press release.
Earlier this year, the congressional members pressed the Trump Administration to provide robust funding as it puts together its annual budget requests for the cleanup to reduce long-term costs and risks, protect the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community and to meet Tri-Party Agreement milestones.
“I applaud the thousands of men and women who show up to Hanford every day and who made this milestone possible,” Murray, D-Wash., said in the release. “They are carrying out critical work, and in turn, the federal government must always fulfill its obligation to ensure workers and the entire Tri-Cities community have the resources they need to continue cleanup in a safe, efficient manner that leads to everyone’s ultimate goal of this land being restored to its natural state.”
Cantwell, D-Wash., said the cleanup was a massive undertaking.
“The Energy Department’s Richland Office has done an incredible job of decontaminating, demolishing, removing waste and remediating the river corridor,” Cantwell said. “While this is an important milestone, the Hanford cleanup project still remains one of the largest cleanup projects in the world. I will continue to fight to make sure progress continues at Hanford and the Energy Department lives up to the commitment to cleanup this waste.”
The 618-10 Burial Ground and two adjacent waste sites were one of the most challenging nuclear waste cleanup projects within the DOE-Richland Operation’s mission, according to the release. The sites are located about six miles north of Richland.
The 7.5 acre burial ground was utilized to discard radioactive waste created in the 300 Area — the center of Hanford’s radiological research and fuel fabrication activities when plutonium was produced in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 2009, the DOE-Richland Operation started to characterize and identify the waste and remediation activities that began in 2011.
Workers removed 94 vertical pipe units buried more than 20 feet below ground. They retrieved 2,201 contaminated 55-gallon drums, and excavated more than 305,000 tons of overburden and contaminated soil from the two sites located adjacent to the Burial Ground.
In all, more than 512,000 tons of radioactive contaminated soil and debris was removed from the 618-10 Burial Ground.
Now with the waste removed, the area needs to be backfilled and native vegetation needs to be planted to restore the area to its natural state, according to the release. The Tri-Party Agreement milestone to complete the work is Sept. 30, 2018.
“The Congressional members have consistently advocated for sufficient funding in DOE-Richland Operation’s budget to support the completion of the 618-10 Burial Ground,” stated the release.