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Discover the PRESENT

K Area Cleanup

Reducing risk near the Columbia River

DOE recently placed the former plutonium production K East reactor into interim safe storage, a process known as "cocooning."

The cocoon will protect the building while radioactivity in the deactivated reactor core decays over the next several decades, making it safe and easier to complete disposition.

This is the seventh of Hanford's nine reactors cocooned. The 100 K Area is the last reactor area in Hanford's Columbia River corridor where cleanup is still progressing.

Part of that process includes debris removal and stabilization at K West Basin. DOE is currently processing and segregating highly radioactive debris, such as contaminated equipment and tools, in the K West Reactor fuel storage basin. 

Separating the material allows workers to safely remove water and eventually demolish the basin, reducing risk to the nearby Columbia River.

In August 2023, DOE completed demolition of the K West Reactor Annex, marking another key step toward completing cleanup at the former plutonium production reactor.

Understanding preparations taking place at K West helps show the significance of work underway at the former K East reactor. K West is scheduled for interim safe storage, or cocooning, in 2027.

The project includes draining and removing the reactor's spent fuel basin where the sludge was stored, then placing the reactor building in interim safe storage.

DOE is also preparing to remove some of Hanford's most hazardous legacy waste. The Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF) provides safe, compliant underwater storage for 1,936 highly radioactive capsules containing cesium and strontium.

DOE is committed to safely storing the capsules until they can be removed for both interim and final placement. While the capsules are currently in a safe configuration, the WESF is an aging facility. DOE is constructing a mock-up facility for training, constructing the Capsule Storage Area, fabricating capsule transfer equipment and modifying the WESF to install equipment to facilitate capsule transfer to safer interim dry storage, allowing for eventual deactivation of the WESF.

View the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility Fact Sheet.

324 Building Remediation

Ensuring worker and public safety

The 324 Building, located in Hanford's 300 Area, supported research on radioactive materials from 1966 to 1996.

Demolishing the building and remediating contaminated soil below the facility - designated the 300-296 Waste Site - is a priority for DOE, due to the facility's proximity to the Columbia River and city of Richland.

Demolition operations were postponed in 2010 after workers detected significant contamination in the soil under one of the building's "hot cells," which shielded workers from radiation while they used remotely operated equipment to conduct research. The contamination likely came from a spill of radioactive materials from one of the hot cells called B Cell.

The 324 Building remains in a safe and stable configuration. The contaminated soil beneath the structure has remained stable for decades, and underground monitoring shows the contamination has not migrated toward groundwater.

View the 324 Building Disposition Project Fact Sheet.

Underground Tank Retrieval

Safely removing waste from 177 tanks

Hanford is home to 177 underground waste storage tanks: 149 single-shell tanks (SST), and 28 double-shell tanks (DST), ranging from 55,000 to 1.265 million gallons in capacity. Those tanks are organized into 18 different groups called farms. Currently, the site's underground tanks store approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste.

The overall mission of single-shell tank farm retrieval consists of safely retrieving tank waste from aging SSTs and transfer waste into newer, more robust double-shell tanks until it can be treated, immobilized and placed in long-term storage.

Currently, tank farms crews are completing retrieval of AX Farm and preparing to retrieve from A Farm next.

Treating Tank Waste

Achieve effective tank waste treatment

During the Nation's defense effort in World War II, Hanford was built with secrecy and speed while workers did their best to safeguard the environment by building nuclear waste storage tanks.

Soon, crews will send pre-treated waste from Hanford's double-shell tank storage system to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) for vitrification.

This process is known as the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program. DFLAW is a One Hanford approach integrating a group of individual projects, facilities and infrastructure upgrades.

During this process, pretreated waste is sent from the Tank Farms directly to WTP's Low-Activity Waste Facility where it is mixed with glass-forming materials.

In July 2023, crews at the Hanford Vit Plant marked a major milestone as they added the first load of frit, or glass beads, into the 2,100-degree Fahrenheit WTP melter to form a pool of nonradioactive molten glass. Once complete, the molten glass pool will be used to vitrify Hanford tank waste, immobilizing it in glass for disposal.

24/7 Critical Infrastructure

Building for the future

Hanford's mission requires critical infrastructure that provides power, water, electricity, roadways, and other services supporting environmental cleanup and the Hanford Site's transition to the 24/7 mission.

As cleanup of large areas has completed, infrastructure has been right-sized to meet the future mission. At the same time, demand for safe and reliable services in operations areas increases. The acceleration of infrastructure projects across the site ensures DOE can be successful in its mission to protect workers, the public and the environment.

Currently under construction, a new water treatment facility will support DFLAW and the transition to the 24/7 mission. The new facility will be capable of producing a minimum of 3.5 million gallons of clean water a day and can be expanded to provide five million gallons per day, if Hanford Site demands increase.

In 2022, DOE finished a new $13.5 million, 17,600-square-foot office building to provide a safe, modern office space for workers as the Hanford Site prepares for the 24/7 mission and increased laboratory testing services. The new space will house administrative and technical staff for Hanford's 222-S Laboratory.

The laboratory's primary mission is to provide analytical support for storage and treatment of tank waste at the site. That includes testing for tank waste retrieval, 242-A Evaporator campaigns, tank waste transfers, waste management, and soon the DFLAW Program.

The new office space replaces a 50-year-old office building in the 200 West Area.

View the Infrastructure Needs for the Future Fact Sheet.

Using Innovative Technology

Improving efficiency across Hanford

In 2022, the Hanford Site launched an unmanned aircraft drone program that offers DOE a new capability to improve operating processes out in the field.

The flights can capture surface imagery or video and evaluate a building's exterior or conduct utility or land stewardship inspections.

DOE can use a drone to capture images around an electrical substation, allowing electrical workers to speed up analysis of the gear, complete better line maintenance and improve the way outages are managed. The images also help provide video and data that is used for 3D modeling.

Last Updated 09/19/2023 5:37 PM