RICHLAND, Wash. – During a visit to the Hanford Site last week, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlighted DOE’s commitment to addressing the environmental legacy near communities such as the Tri-Cities, Washington, that supported national defense programs for many decades.
In addition to visiting cleanup projects underway at Hanford, Granholm met with area tribal leaders and participated in a community forum at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
“My first visit to Hanford provided me with a deeper appreciation for the magnitude of the mission as well as the considerable progress in cleaning up the environment and protecting workers, the community and the Columbia River,” said Granholm.
In recognition of DOE’s “safety first” approach to Hanford cleanup, Granholm’s tour began at the Volpentest HAMMER Federal Training Center. A unique partnership that includes DOE, union leaders, contractors, tribes, the state of Washington and others, the center provides hands-on training to keep Hanford workers safe on the job. HAMMER stands for Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response.
Granholm visited key elements of the mission underway to treat radioactive and chemical waste stored in underground tanks at Hanford. Stops included the Low-Activity Waste Facility, where preparations are underway to begin heating up the first 300-ton melter that will vitrify, or immobilize in glass, tank waste once treatment operations begin; and the High-Level Waste Facility, where design and procurement work has resumed.
“This has been a valuable opportunity to get an up-close look at the facilities that will treat Hanford tank waste for disposal,” said Granholm. “This tour illustrated the progress that is possible with DOE and the state of Washington driving toward our shared goal of turning Hanford tank waste into glass via the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste Program.”
A key part of that program, the Tank-Side Cesium Removal System, has treated 390,000 gallons of tank waste so far this year. The treated waste will be fed to the Low-Activity Waste Facility when treatment operations begin.
Advancements in the tank waste cleanup mission coupled with progress in key risk-reduction efforts such as transferring radioactive capsules to dry storage, remediating a highly radioactive area under the 324 Building and treating contaminated groundwater, are leading to a safer Hanford Site.
Before leaving the site, Granholm visited Hanford’s historic B Reactor, which is part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Granholm noted that the same determination and ingenuity it took to construct the first full-scale plutonium production reactor is demonstrated today by the men and women of Hanford who are cleaning up the environmental legacy of producing plutonium for national defense.
While in the Tri-Cities, Granholm participated in a dinner with leaders from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribal Nation, the Yakama Tribal Nation and the Wanapum Band of Indians.
“With a diverse community and tribal nations, the level of local expertise, knowledge and capabilities here in the Tri-Cities is unparalleled,” said Granholm. “DOE is committed to ensuring that those most affected by Hanford’s environmental legacy have a voice as we look to the future. DOE will continue working with unions, tribal nations, the local community and the state of Washington to complete Hanford cleanup, as well as pave a path to a clean, safe and vibrant future.”
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