How Much Digging Should The Government Do At Hanford?

Nov 6, 2014

Removing and disposing of contaminated soil is one of the biggest jobs at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

An aerial view of the 200 Area at Hanford -- also known as the Central Plateau.
Credit U.S. Department of Energy

So when government officials announced this week they want to look into digging a bit shallower at the southeast Washington site, a lot of people took notice.

Dennis Faulk heads the Richland office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as been answering a lot of questions at Hanford cleanup advisory board meetings this week. He’s also asking the public whether federal Hanford managers should study digging less at Hanford --10 feet down around contaminated waste sites, instead of 15.

“These evaluations cost money to do,” Faulk said. “And if in the end they aren’t going to be accepted we want to kind of have a feel for that.”

Faulk said digging less, would be way less expensive.

The proposed study would be of the Central Plateau, Hanford’s most contaminated 10-square-miles. It features underground pits where liquid radioactive waste was dumped and 43 miles of radioactive garbage-filled trenches.

Some say the federal government should clean up everything possible so the land is safer for future generations. The federal government is working on finalizing work plans for this area by spring.