Hanford managers and watchdogs hold first in-person cleanup dialogue meeting since before pandemic

The last in-person public meeting about Hanford cleanup was in Richland in 2019
The last in-person public meeting about Hanford cleanup was in Richland in 2019. (Courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology)



The public can ask questions and learn about Hanford site cleanup during an upcoming meeting in Kennewick. It’s the first in-person Hanford event in a long while. 

The Hanford site produced more than 70 tons of plutonium from World War II through the Cold War. When that production ended, it left a big mess to clean up. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Washington Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency are hosting a meeting on December 5 to inform and take questions from the public about work at the site. Ryan Miller is a spokesperson for Washington’s Ecology department. He said this is the first time there has been a public in-person Hanford meeting since 2019.  

“We’re restarting these meetings beginning here in the Tri-Cities,” Miller said. “We’re going to be evaluating the viability of holding them elsewhere in the future.” 

Energy, Ecology and EPA have held these types of public meetings from Richland to Hood River, Oregon to Walla Walla – before the pandemic. Energy is responsible for Hanford and its cleanup, and Ecology and EPA regulate that cleanup.

Two deer stand in front of the D Reactor at Hanford

Two deer stand in front of the D Reactor at Hanford. (Courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology)

At the meeting, Hanford managers and watchdogs say they will provide a brief welcome followed by breakout sessions with agency staff to discuss and answer questions about Hanford cleanup projects.

Participants will be able to ask agency experts about the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste project for tank waste treatment and the future of the Hanford cleanup mission.

Ed Dawson is a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We’ve removed waste from 20 large underground tanks so far,” Dawson said. “We’re also moving forward with the demonstration to show that there may be an opportunity to be able to use grout to stabilize some of the tank waste for disposal out of state. And again, nine years running now, we’ve treated more than 2 billion gallons of contaminated ground water each year so, some significant examples, some significant steps that are being taken.”

Nikolas Peterson, executive director with the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge, said: “I want to hear what they’re saying about cleanup success. I think we still have a long way to go. But public involvement is at a low point. It used to be that we could call a DOE manager on the phone, but we just don’t have that same relationship today.” 

Peterson said he sent a letter last year and the year before, along with Columbia Riverkeeper, Natural Resource Defense Council and Yakama Nation to get a meeting with Energy but it took more than a year to get a time set for that meeting with the federal government.

“It’s one meeting and it’s in Richland,” Peterson said. “We’d love to see [more] regional meetings come back to allow everyone who’s affected by Hanford to have a voice on cleanup.”

The Hanford Dialogue is on Tuesday, December 5, at the Red Lion Hotel in Kennewick near Columbia Center on 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the event runs until 8 p.m. More meeting information and the agenda can be found on Energy’s website.