What you need to know about Hanford
The nuclear weapons production that began at Hanford in the 1940s generated substantial amounts of radioactive and chemical wastes, contaminated land and groundwater, and created a lasting legacy of contaminated facilities. Since the signing of the Tri-Party Agreement in 1989, Ecology, EPA, and Energy have worked to clean up, treat, and dispose of this legacy to reduce the threats it poses. Substantial progress has been made, and substantial work remains.
During World War II, the government wanted a large buffer zone around its nuclear production facilities for secrecy and public safety. The current site is about 580 square miles and most areas are still not accessible to the public.
In the event of an emergency, the U.S. Department of Energy is required to effectively respond to protect human health and the environment.
- In the 1980s, groundwater contamination totaled about 80 square miles. Today about 60 square miles of groundwater remains contaminated above federal standards — and the level of contamination has been greatly reduced for significant portions of that area.
- There are no active nuclear production facilities; however, the site contains some of the nation's most complicated nuclear and mixed dangerous waste, which must still be cleaned up.
- Energy is required to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access to the contaminated areas of the site.