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Hanford cleanup oversight

Our Nuclear Waste Program focuses on keeping Washington's residents and the environment safe from toxic and radioactive contamination at the Hanford site. We ensure that the U.S. Dept. of Energy — Hanford's owner and manager — follows environmental laws. We work to ensure that Energy meets cleanup deadlines outlined in the Tri-Party Agreement which governs Hanford site cleanup.

View of the Columbia River from the west bank, with brown grasses and shrubs in the foreground, blue water, a small island, and white bluffs and mountains across the river.

The Nuclear Waste Program

  • Enforces regulatory compliance and cleanup at the Hanford site and at other facilities that manage nuclear waste in Washington.
  • Promotes public involvement, community outreach, and education regarding waste management, compliance, and cleanup.

What you need to know about Hanford

Hanford does not pose immediate threats to human health or the environment.

During World War II, the government wanted a large buffer zone around its nuclear production facilities both for secrecy and public safety. The current site is about 580 square-miles and is still mostly inaccessible to the public.

  • Only about 10 percent of the site has radioactive or chemical contamination.
  • Employees who perform cleanup work receive specialized training and wear protective gear.
  • There are no active nuclear production facilities.
  • A highly trained security force works at the site to ensure that no one enters Hanford with ill intent.
In the event of an accident at Hanford, emergency management professionals and health experts working at Hanford, in the nearby counties, and for Washington are trained to protect the public. Regular practice drills keep people alert and prepared.
A woman in a kayak paddling on the Columbia river.

The Columbia River is safe

Both the state and federal governments actively monitor the river for contaminants to be sure that the public is informed of all possible risks.

Samples of sediments were taken from a 146-mile stretch of the Columbia River to confirm that there is no health threat, from McNary Dam (292 miles upriver from the mouth of the Columbia) down the river to Bonneville Dam (40 miles east of Portland, Oregon). The entire Hanford site and the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River are regularly monitored for contamination. Survey results are published in annual groundwater reports.

In addition, the Columbia River meets the requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.