In 2019 the Department of Energy finished transferring radioactive sludge from a facility near the Columbia River to safer storage in the center of the Hanford Site.
Approximately 35 cubic yards of radioactive sludge were stored under 17 feet of water in a concrete basin adjacent to Hanford’s K West Reactor, one of nine former plutonium production reactors at the Hanford Site. The sludge was created when irradiated uranium fuel rods stored in the basin began to deteriorate years after production activities stopped in the 1980s. For 20 years work has been underway to remove and package the material, eliminating a significant threat to the nearby Columbia River.
After using a mock-up facility to test equipment and train workers, the contractor began transferring sludge in June 2018. By September 2019 crews had safely removed all the sludge and packaged it into 20 large containers. The containers were shipped to T Plant in the center of the Hanford Site for safe interim storage.
Removing the sludge is a critical step in moving forward with other work near the K Reactors to reduce Hanford’s annual operating costs. The next major steps in cleanup will include removing the basin to allow the K East and K West Reactors to be placed into Interim Safe Storage.