Feds Say Hanford’s PUREX Plant Is Degrading, Needs Stabilizing Soon
A new federal report says that a massive building at the Hanford Nuclear Site is worse off than managers thought.
The so-called PUREX — Plutonium Uranium Extraction — plant isn’t clean. Starting in 1956 the plant processed loads of plutonium. Its walls are up to 6 feet thick, and it’s as long as three football fields.
PUREX is located within Hanford’s 200 East Area. It’s about 7 miles from the Columbia River and 5 miles from State Highway 240.
Locals call these large buildings with deep underground walls “canyons.” They’re also called “Queen Marys” because of their long shape resembling ocean liners sailing amid the sagebrush.
Now, the behemoth canyon is slowly degrading. Final cleanup isn’t slated for more than a decade, around 2032. After studying the PUREX plant, the federal government has just released a new plan that would stabilize the building for now. But it’s hard to balance all the urgent cleanups on the site, according to Theresa Howell with the Washington State Department of Ecology. There’s 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge stored in aging underground tanks, too.
“It’s an ongoing struggle at Hanford to continue to get funding to address all of the risks out there,” Howell said. “So this is one way to get a little bit of movement forward.”
If not dealt with soon, Washington state officials say they worry the PUREX plant will contaminate the environment.
The new federal report underscores that worry, saying: “…the 202A Building [PUREX] has degraded. Spread of contamination has been observed throughout the building and has the potential to continue as the facilities degrade.”
Two deer are pictured near the D Reactor on the Hanford site. Leaders from across Washington and Oregon sent a letter to the Biden administration in early August to request… Continue Reading Washington, Oregon leaders still waiting to hear from President Biden on Hanford funds
Artist Glenna Cole Allee stands near “White Bluffs Tapestry,” a fabric-printed photo-collage that represents the White Bluffs of Hanford Reach. (Photo courtesy Glenna Cole Allee) Listen What started as a… Continue Reading Hanford Site history and secrets inspire new multimedia exhibition
Crews have started heating up the first of two 300-ton melters inside Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. (Photo courtesy Bechtel National) Listen The world’s largest melter, designed to solidify… Continue Reading New vitrification plant ‘crucial step’ to removing toxic waste at Hanford