Handford's Dirty Secrets


Active Member
I think the main problem is that the real cost to remediate the site is so staggering that we'll never complete the work. I don't think adequate resources will ever be made available. To some extent, it's much like Chernobyl...except that, unlike the old USSR, we can't just abandon an entire region....and the contamination is spreading to one of the great rivers of the world.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
Krusty hit the nail on the head. It IS expensive to clean-up. Retrieval also takes time due to budget, regulatory constraints, the nature of the work, and the environment and locations in which tank retrieval must be effected. Suffice to say that there are a myriad of significant challenges and "walking-away" is a non-option. There is an abundance of dangerous waste in aging underground tanks. It’s been 32+ years & counting for me and if the site wasn't safe or the good work performed there wasn't done so safely, I & many others wouldn't be here. We hold the lives and well-being of ourselves and our families as dearly as anyone else; we also share a common appreciation and respect for the stewardship of the Earth and her resources. Lest we forget, the efforts of early Hanford helped to facilitate an end to WWII saving countless American & Allies' lives in the process (I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one here who had parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. who were part of the "greatest generation" that stepped-up during this conflict.). I wish that conflict hadn’t occurred, but it did and we are left with the legacy; it is, unfortunately, what it is.

Technology & knowledge re: nuclear energy has significantly advanced since the '40s & we are making headway, albeit it expensive for a multitude of reasons, in removing the waste from more vulnerable, older, single-shell tanks (AY102 is a double-shell tank, hence the leaked material is contained within the sound outer tank that surrounds the primary tank.). I'm proud of the work with which I've been involved at Hanford . . . from N Reactor to the Tank Farms. There are some exceptionally competent & talented people out there doing great work and safely at that (7 million man-hours without a lost workday injury says something about the forethought & rigor that characterizes the tasks performed and successes realized.). While I know the instrument technician referenced in the article and have complete confidence in his ability and skill as a craftsman, he is entitled to his opinion but he is neither a scientist nor an engineer. I place similar confidence in the highly-qualified scientists, engineers, senior managers, oversight agencies, and regulators who have investigated and analyzed this event. My mechanic may have an opinion about my health issues, but I’ll place my treatment in the hands of a qualified medical professional. The AY102 effort proceeded in a thoughtful & analytical manner, without jeopardizing ongoing monitoring & retrieval of other known leaking tanks.

As for “a turd in a picnic basket” and “F#&K handford” . . . North America began deteriorating several centuries ago; development, progress, and prosperity come at a price. Like it or not, Hanford HAS been a significant positive economic factor in the Tri Cities and greater Yakima Valley areas, but for those who are concerned . . . you can always move away. Why, I’d bet the Seattle area was quite pristine some 300 years ago . . .
Oh . . . I don’t glow anymore; the Cherenkov Effect has diminished over the years (it started in of all places, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard . . .). I can however light a barbeque from 20-feet away just by pointing at it . . . I’ll stay on the east side, thank you very much. C'mon over and fish, but wear your lead-lined waders :eek:.


I lived my younger years in La Grande. It is downwind from Hanford. It's kind'a strange. I have thyroid disease. My wife has thyroid disease. My sister had thyroid disease. Her mother had thyroid disease. Both my folks had thyroid disease. We all lived in La Grande.

A light went off when my Doc discovered my under active thyroid when he asked if I ever lived close to Handford. Strange. So moving away means moving FAR away.

But wait, there's more.

My older brother worked at Hanford as a tech. Everyone in his department wore the little radiation warning badges. If someone's badge turned color indicating that something was amiss, the managers tried to sweep it under the table. No biggie, you've been exposed to radiation... let's not talk about it.

The event that caused my brother to quit the job and move to The Willamette Valley was the case of a dead duck in a dumpster. Ducks live outside the plant. One day, a duck was found in a dumpster and was red hot with radiation. Hmmmmm.... the duck lived outside. It was dead and exposed to radiation. It was tossed in a dumpster.

So he got the hell out'a there. Now, this was many, many years ago so perhaps things were different in those days. My brother still has odd growths all over his body that are evidently harmless but came from somewhere.

Now... a decade later, my younger brother gets a job at the facility. His job was to look at blueprints of the plant and compare them to how the plant was actually built. He then changed the blueprints to match. That seems kind'a weird. Wouldn't you think the idea is to build the place as indicated by the blueprints instead of changing the blueprints to match after the fact?

Great. They didn't follow the blueprints but simply changed them to show that they did.

Anyway, I'm not pro nor con when it comes to nuke plants. My personal experience is just kind'a strange when it comes to the nuke plant.

BTW: my older brother opened a Hobby Shop in Corvallis after he moved from the Tri Cities and is much happier and I get a discount on hobby items so the Hanford affair turned out to be a good thing :)


Active Member
Generally, construction plans are actually only 80% to 90% complete. The contractor's engineers complete the remainder (which have to be submitted back to the owner's design engineers for approval).

The followup process, as construction proceeds and is completed, is to create 'as-built' plans. The usual problem is that the contractor loses interest as the job nears completion, and the money flow slows down (contractors are paid as they go)...and they're in a big hurry to get to the next job.

Unless the construction management people (normally the owner's agents) really holds their feet to the fire to produce 'as-builts', the contractor is gone.....and the owner (and subsequent contractors) will experience all sorts of problems. In some cases, particularly subterranean work or things encased in concrete...it will be impossible to create accurate 'as-builts', and the discoveries are made when somebody punches into something important.


Active Member
You'd think a nuke plant would be a little more exact when it comes to building the joint.
They probably peruse the contracting engineers' submittals more carefully than most (I would hope, anyway).

There's a fascinating book focusing on the first reactor constuction at Hanford....and what amazed the various contractors was the incredible detail the plans contained....but it wasn't done to that level out of safety; they segmented the work (simultaneously)to different contractors, so where one contractor ended the other could assume it would all it fit together perfectly. It was done for secrecy....they didn't want any one contractor having possession of the entire facility design so they might figure out what was being constructed.

Such level of design is incredibly expensive...conduit, piping, and mechanical systems from different contractors had to line up perfectly. A normal design provides a rough estimate of location, and the contractor gets some flexibility.....which is fine if good contractor designs are approved, AND you get accurate' as-builts'.


Well-Known Member

I think "as builts" are slightly different for all structures including nuke plants. The original architect and engineer drawings invariably make certain assumptions about the construction site. Job sites always are different in some way from the original assumptions. In can be simple, like the slope of the land differs from prior survey measurements, or maybe there's a giant boulder where some piping is supposed to go. It's cheaper to go around the rock than drill or blast through it. So as built drawings are important to have for any complex structure. And Hanford easily qualifies as complex.



Active Member
Krusty is right about the as-built process---and not just how it is completed at Hanford or Commercial Nuclear Power Plants.

Jim is correct that clean up is costly. However, DOE is notoriously expensive the way it doesn't manage. Several cost effective and adequately safe alternatives to the vitrification plant were available but not pursued. The problem is that for some, the higher price and slower task completion is better... Also Jim--make certain that your lead lined waders are not Pb-212.

GAT---I'm sorry that your family has a history of thyroid problems. It would be an interesting study to evaluate all potential causes and the incident rate in Le Grand compared to other down wind communities. I don't remember the history of the Iodine plume tests nor the dates of the green runs at PUREX---I haven't been at Hanford for over 23 years now. These studies could have had an impact---I just don't know enough to make an informed opinion. The half life of Iodine 131 is short enough that any Iodine released during the studies and green runs would not impact Le Grande in any significant way today.