Excavation at Hanford nuclear reservation aims to reduce radioactive risk to river

The building covering the Hanford Site's K East Basin has been leveled, clearing the way for excavation to reduce the risk of radioactive waste from the nation's former plutonium processing facility leaking into the Columbia River.

Draining the last of the radioactive water from the basin earlier this year eliminated the risk of more contamination to the ground beneath the basin, which has leaked in the past. But the Department of Energy still needs to address contamination already in the soil beneath the basin, which poses a threat to the river.

That work should take about 10 months and involve higher contamination and radiation levels than encountered in demolishing the building that covered the basin, according to Department of Energy contractor Fluor Hanford. The water-filled basin was used to hold irradiated fuel, including fuel that was waiting to be processed for plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program and fuel that was left unprocessed at the end of the Cold War.

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