Hanford Milestone at Largest Reactor

Hanford Milestone at Largest Reactor »Play Video
HANFORD—Hundreds of Hanford workers will be laid off in September as the stimulus-driven clean-up effort winds down.

Progress is not just noticeable on paper. It's also visible at the site’s largest reactor.

The contamination removed from the "N" reactor marks a major milestone for Hanford's clean-up of the Columbia River Corridor. Gary Snow is in charge of part of the project.

"We now got over half of it done and over half of the roof on," said Snow.

And it's no small feat. The “N” reactor is the largest of nine reactors at Hanford. Only two more need to be sealed.

The “N” reactor is also the only one in the nation that once had another purpose beyond just producing plutonium for weapons. It also produced electricity out of steam. That means the site is bigger.

To get around the size of the project, Hanford workers started from the outside, in. First they got rid of contaminated office space and pipes.

The pipes are so big, at nine feet in diameter even a very tall person could stand inside them.

Mark Buckmaster is in charge of the waste sites around the N Reactor. He says once removed, the pipes will go to Hanford's specially-sealed landfill.

"As you can see, we're really close to the river and all our goals are to protect, make sure contaminants don't go into the ground water,” said Buckmaster.

All the work along the river could be done by 2013. That's two years ahead of schedule. Hanford officials say it’s also under-budget by $212 million. That money will be put back into ongoing clean-up efforts as workers begin to head to the “central plateau” of the site.

"It's not like when we get done on the river corridor everyone goes away from Hanford. there still will be a lot of work going on," said Snow.

There nine reactors at Hanford and only three left to seal up, including the "N" reactor.

The "B" reactor will not be sealed. It will remain part of the historical tour.