Hanford F Reactor is first to be completely cleaned up - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hanford F Reactor is first to be completely cleaned up

Posted: Updated:

NEAR RICHLAND, Wash.-- Wednesday marks a major milestone in the Hanford cleanup. The F Reactor area is no longer a threat to the Columbia River and the environment.

Years of work have led to this remarkable accomplishment. The F reactor is the very first reactor site at Hanford to be fully cleared. A look back helps us appreciate the work done for the future of this land.

It's hard to wrap your mind around just how much intricate and risky work was completed inside the two square miles that is the F Reactor site.

"It's tough to picture what it used to be like back in the day but it's a huge amount that was completed to ensure the Columbia River is protected in the future," says Matt McCormick, Manager of the Richland D.O.E.

The F Reactor operated from 1945 to 1965 producing plutonium for the nation's defense.

To clean up that work, contractors demolished one hundred twelve facilities, cleaned up eighty-eight waste sites and removed 1.5 million tons of contaminated material.

"For the tax payer really and the folks downstream, we effectively cleaned up the F area so that the contamination doesn't threaten the Columbia River and cause environmental hazard in the future," says McCormick.

All that's left is the F Reactor itself, which is cocooned to seal in all radioactive material.

The D.O.E. is taking this process full circle to return the rest of the land to what it looked like before the Manhattan project.

"After we're done with clean up and removing the hazard to the environment and to the public, we backfill the places where we had to dig out contaminated soil and revegetate it," says McCormick.

The completion of F Reactor cleanup marks a big step forward in D.O.E.'s mission to cleanup the entire Hanford site.

"Nailed down and done and executed and the transition process back to the government confirmed and so it's a great first test case for us to say, yeah we can but a bow around this one and claim this complete," says Carole Johnson, President of Washington Closure Hanford.

The F Reactor will stay cocooned at the site for several decades to allow the radioactive material to decay before it is moved to a waste disposal site.

Biologists are working to re-establish the vegetation by this winter to look just as it did nearly seventy years ago.