25 years on at America’s most contaminated nuclear waste site via BBC News

Hanford, Washington, has long been the most contaminated nuclear waste site in the US. But critics say poor management has put the site in further danger.

When Susan Leckband moved to eastern Washington state to take a job 30 years ago, radioactive contamination was not on her mind.

“I loved my job,” she says.

But it was only a handful of years before the place she worked, Hanford, turned from a plutonium production complex to a massive environmental clean-up site.

For Leckband, the question is not about the past, but the progress made on cleaning contaminated buildings and soil.

“It’s important to the entire Pacific North-West… the food crops, the salmon, the Indian tribes – it’s a huge, huge obligation,” she says.

Situated on a plain along the Columbia River, the Hanford site is where the US produced plutonium used in the Manhattan Project, for the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, and for a Cold War stockpile.


By 1989, Hanford was no longer a bomb factory, but a site in need of serious clean-up.

Twenty-five years later, the region around Hanford is once again booming. Clean-up has taken the place of the business of plutonium production.

The US Department of Energy (DOE), which manages the clean-up effort as part of an agreement with Washington state and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), counts among its accomplishments at Hanford seven reactors cocooned for future dismantling, nine billion gallons of treated groundwater, and hundreds of cleaned or demolished buildings.

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