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Projects & Facilities

300 Area

Aerial image of the 300 Area - Circa 2018
Aerial photo of the 300 Area circa 2018.
The Hanford Site’s 300 Area was home to fuel fabrication operations and housed experimental and laboratory facilities. At one time, six small-scale nuclear reactors were located in the 300 Area, only a few miles from the city of Richland. The 300 Area is adjacent to the Columbia River and is next to the main road that takes many Hanford workers from their Tri-Cities homes to on-site work locations.
During Hanford’s plutonium production mission that began with the Manhattan Project, hundreds of thousands of tons of raw uranium were sent to the 300 Area to be manufactured into fuel assemblies called “rods.” These fuel rods were placed into the 100 Area reactors, where a nuclear chain reaction would change the uranium into the plutonium needed for atomic weapons. The 300 Area also served to provide scientists with laboratory facilities where they could test theories and conduct experiments to find the most efficient ways to transform uranium into plutonium. Crews also manufactured many tools in the 300 Area for use at Hanford. Because nuclear reactors and plutonium processing facilities had not been built prior to the Manhattan Project, a lot of the materials and tools needed for their construction had not yet been invented.
The Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) agencies – the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) – have issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater along the Columbia River in the 300 Area. Read more about the 300 Area Record of Decision.
The 300 Area has presented unique challenges to workers involved in deactivating, decommissioning, decontaminating, and demolishing the hundreds of facilities in the complex. Due to the experiments conducted in the 300 Area, there are many contaminated zones associated with it, many of which have already been remediated. Crews take precautions to avoid coming into contact with the chemical and radiological waste created while the area was operational. They also ensure that no hazardous waste is released into the air or soil. Some of the liquid waste has contaminated some of the groundwater beneath the 300 Area and migrated toward the Columbia River, but crews are removing and remediating that contamination today.
The buildings associated with the 300 Area present challenges to cleanup teams. These 1940s-era buildings were constructed with asbestos and other materials that we now know can be harmful to humans. When these structures are torn down, the work is done in accordance with federal and state regulatory policies so that no contamination is released into the air or taken in by workers.
Last Updated 10/26/2023 8:33 AM