Hanford officials hope to launch a field research center at the nuclear reservation in early 2011 to work on the problem of contaminated soil deep underground.
It would tackle the problem at Hanford, but also would provide solutions for other Department of Energy sites with hazardous chemical and radiological contamination in the vadose zone, the area of earth above the water table.
“I’m extremely supportive,” said Ines Triay, the DOE assistant secretary for environmental management, during a visit to the Tri-Cities last week.
Hanford has the needed critical mass with access to the resources of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, industry and academia to help Hanford research deep vadose zone contamination, she said .
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It’s not practical to excavate more than 60 feet below the ground’s surface, but in central Hanford, soil that’s as much as 300 feet below the ground’s surface is contaminated. The contamination spreads from the soil to the ground water, then toward the Columbia River.
Of primary concern are radioactive technetium 99 and uranium, said Matt Mc-Cormick, DOE assistant manager for central Hanford during a presentation to the Hanford Advisory Board.