Explainer

Why the Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Is Still Happening 73 Years Later

And what the project stands to lose thanks to budget cuts.

By Hayat Norimine March 27, 2018 Published in the April 2018 issue of Seattle Met

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A Deadly Legacy

In 1943, as part of the Manhattan Project, the War Department located part of its weapons development in the southeastern Washington desert—near Richland. The goal: Produce plutonium. The result: the very plutonium that was inside the bomb the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. An estimated 80,000 men, women, and children died.

The Radioactive Aftermath

After WWII ended, Hanford kept manufacturing plutonium for the nukes accumulated by the U.S. during the Cold War. By 1989, the site had also produced 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks. 

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