Cleanup Options For Radioactive Waste Near The Columbia River Goes Public

Jul 29, 2013

This week federal officials roll out a series of public meetings around what to do about radioactive materials that are near the Columbia River. This area of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is known as the 300 Area.

This is the 300 Area, near the Columbia River, after the clean-up of about 50 acres.
Credit Washington Closure Hanford

It’s where workers milled uranium rods and tested ways to process plutonium during WWII and the Cold War. They poured about 2 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste a day into sandy ponds and trenches next to the Columbia River.

Cleaning up buildings and material there has kept crews busy for 20 years. One of the remaining jobs is to work on a 125-acre groundwater plume contaminated with uranium. Michael Thompson is a hydrologist with the Department of Energy. He says the plan now is to “sequester that uranium in place.”

Thompson says this means adding phosphates to it. “And the uranium then does not dissolve back into the groundwater and the groundwater will clean itself up within a reasonable amount of time.”

Another part of the 300 Area Hanford plan would dig up trenches full of radioactive garbage, and pipes and soil where radioactive liquid has leaked into the ground.