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Hanford cleans up underground trench waste ahead of schedule

Northwest News Network
Workers secure a box of low level waste for shipment at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers have retrieved a key portion of radioactive waste ahead of schedule. That announcement came from the federal government today.

This particular cleanup project of trenches and old buildings at southeast Washington nuclear site was funded largely by federal stimulus money.

Dean Nester is a project manager with the government contractor that did the work called, CH2MHill. He says the crews did much of the work by hand and came across many different chemicals and a few surprises.

“And of course we saw some pretty interesting things in the waste. Waste that you wouldn't think would be out here at Hanford, like men's magazines things like that," Nester says. "It's always interesting digging into old waste sites."

Once treated, the waste is put in lined trenches at Hanford or stored at the treatment facilities. Most of the containers date back to when Hanford produced plutonium during the Cold War. The waste is made up of contaminated equipment, tools, debris and used protective clothing.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.
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