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Hanford cleanup oversight

Our Nuclear Waste Program focuses on keeping Washington's residents and the environment safe from toxic and radioactive contamination at the Hanford site. We ensure that the U.S. Dept. of Energy — Hanford's owner and manager — follows environmental laws. We work to ensure that Energy meets cleanup deadlines outlined in the Tri-Party Agreement which governs Hanford site cleanup.

The Nuclear Waste Program:

  • Enforces regulatory compliance and cleanup at the Hanford site and at other facilities that manage nuclear waste throughout Washington.
  • Promotes public involvement, community outreach, and education to enhance nuclear waste management, compliance, and cleanup.

What do you need to know about Hanford?

Hanford does not pose immediate threats to human health or the environment.

During World War II, the government wanted a large buffer zone around its nuclear production facilities both for secrecy and public safety. The current site is about 580 square-miles and is still mostly inaccessible to the public.

  • Only about 10 percent of the site has radioactive or chemical contamination.
  • Employees who perform cleanup work receive specialized training and wear protective gear.
  • There are no active nuclear production facilities.
  • A highly trained security force works at the site to ensure that no one enters Hanford with ill intent.
In the event of an accident at Hanford, emergency management professionals and health experts working at Hanford, in the nearby counties, and for Washington State are trained to protect the public. Regular practice drills keep people alert and prepared.

The Columbia River is safe

Both the state and federal governments actively monitor the river for contaminants to ensure that the public is informed of all possible risks.

  • The Columbia River meets the requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Numerous samples of soil, groundwater, river water, seeps, sediments, and vegetation are taken at regular intervals each year.
  • The entire Hanford site and the river are also periodically surveyed for radioactivity using various geophysical tools. Survey results are published in annual groundwater reports.
  • In partnership with the Oregon Department of Energy and the Washington State Department of Health, we obtain samples of sediments from a 146-mile stretch of the Columbia River to confirm that there is no health threat, from McNary Dam (292 miles upriver from the mouth of the Columbia) down the river to Bonneville Dam (40 miles east of Portland, Oregon).