Hanford Cleanup Challenge: Groundwater

The Hanford Nuclear Site sits along the Columbia River, just 35 miles from Oregon’s border.

It’s one of the reasons the Oregon Department of Energy remains an active voice in the cleanup of the site, which produced plutonium for America’s nuclear weapons program for more than 40 years.

Earlier this week, ODOE Hanford Hydrogeologist Tom Sicilia demonstrated why leaking tank waste and other contaminated sites at Hanford pose such a threat to the area’s groundwater — and ultimately the mighty Columbia. Check out the slideshow below!

Using a sand tank created to show how contaminants can flow through soil layers and aquifers, Tom injected colored water into a simulated waste tank area (green), as well as in injection wells (blue and purple). After Tom added water in the left reservoir to simulate how rain and groundwater flow would affect the contaminants, we saw the contaminated areas quickly spread and move toward the river.

Tom also showed how a groundwater pump can help remove some contaminants, which resulted in a shrinking contaminated zone (green area).

Learn more about Oregon’s work with the Hanford Cleanup, and join us in October for a public meeting about some of the tank waste on site.