For more than 40 years, facilities at the Hanford Site produced plutonium critical to the nation’s defense during World War II and throughout the Cold War.
This effort resulted in the production of 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical wastes, which are currently stored in 177 underground tanks. The tanks range in capacity from 55,000 gallons to over 1 million gallons.
The tank waste is a complex and diverse combination of radioactive and chemical waste that takes the physical form of sludge, salts and liquids with varying combinations of chemical properties. Much of the waste is stored in 149 single-shell tanks, first constructed in the mid-1940s. The remainder is stored in 28 double-shell tanks of newer construction. The Department of Energy has minimized the risk of waste leaking from the single-shell tanks by removing pumpable liquids and transferring those liquids to the double-shell tanks.
No two tanks are the same:
- No two tanks have the same waste contents
- Moderate to high radioactivity
- Highly caustic
- Waste temperatures range from 60°F to 160°F
- Most waste produces some hydrogen
The tanks are organized into 18 separate groups, called tank farms, situated on Hanford’s Central Plateau about 7 to 10 miles from the Columbia River.
- 149 tanks constructed 1943 – 1964
- 55,000 – 1 million gallon capacity
- Waste receipts ceased in 1980
- Composed of a primary tank with secondary containment (secondary tank)
- 28 tanks constructed 1968 – 1986
- 1 – 1.26 million gallon capacity
- Retrieved SST waste and waste evaporator concentrate storage
- 1 leaking, waste contained within annulus (space between inner and outer shell)