New Technology at Hanford is Making the Cleanup Process Faster - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New Technology at Hanford is Making the Cleanup Process Faster

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HANFORD, Wash-- The site is one of the few places in the world with buried, old nuclear reactor fuel. It's radioactive, dangerous and very difficult to clean up.

Local scientists are inventing their own technologies to clean up Hanford. Project managers say it's really speeding up the process and could save taxpayer dollars.

They say their number one priority is protecting the Columbia River from contamination and this new device is doing just that. The new invention is called the CRATER, it looks like a small box. It can detect contamination in dirt. Washington Closure Hanford scientists created CRATER, because they wanted to speed up clean up projects.

"We want to get the job done efficiently and with the lowest amount of exposure to people, making sure that we have everything contained so this device allows us to operate more efficiently, lowers exposure and overall it's a win-win for us," said Ed Traverso, WA Hanford Closure.

The CRATER device is attached to the bucket of a track hoe. Once it scoops up some dirt in the burial ground it only takes fifteen seconds to determine if the dirt is contaminated.

"It looks very promising on actually increasing our production here and decreasing the amount of exposure to the individuals," said Mark Buckmaster, WA Hanford Closure Project Manager.

The spent nuclear fuel from the D Reactor was buried about 100 yards away, while it was producing plutonium. Very close to this site is the Columbia River.

"That's why we're here, to get the material out of the ground and get it into a safe storage area and not be near the river which is a risk," said Traverso.

Before the CRATER device was developed finding toxic waste was really hard. Workers used hand held detectors and it was very time consuming and exposed them to more radiation. Now that they can find it in just a scoop of dirt, the process is much faster.