Science Center Objects

Located on 586 square miles in southeastern Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy's (USDOE) Hanford Site was established during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. As a result of plutonium processing and operation of nine nuclear reactors, large volumes of liquid wastes have been generated and discharged to the ground.

The USDOE operates a long-term ground-water monitoring program for selected radionuclide and inorganic constituents, and sampling has detected hazardous constituents in excess of EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) maximum contaminant levels. To assist EPA in its oversight of cleanup of the 78 operable units on the Hanford Site, the USGS is providing technical expertise in hydrology, geology, and ecology.

The USGS participates in planning meetings with representatives of the EPA, USDOE, and their contractors to discuss scientific approaches for addressing site characterization and ecological risk assessment needs.

9722-9FB - Investigations of Hazardous Waste at Hanford CERCLA Sites

Problem - The U.S. Department of Energy's (USDOE) Hanford Nuclear Reservation was designed and operated to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. As a result of plutonium processing, and operation of 9 nuclear reactors, large volumes of liquid wastes have been generated and discharged to the ground. These wastes include a wide variety of radionuclides, organic, and inorganic chemicals contained in over 1,400 waste storage, disposal, and overspill sites. The USDOE operates a long-term ground-water monitoring program for selected radionuclide and inorganic constituents, and sampling has detected hazardous constituents in excess of EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) maximum contaminant levels. The Hanford site has been organized to 78 operable units, and the cleanup of each unit entails a detailed site characterization study to determine the nature and extent of contamination. EPA has oversight responsibility for the remediation and has requested the USGS to provide technical assistance.

Objectives - The objective of the work is to technically review and evaluate various USDOE work plans, data collection activities, and interpretive reports related to the hydrology, geology. and ecology at Hanford CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act) sites.

Relevance and Benefits - The USGS provides technical assistance to EPA-Hanford in the form of document reviews and interpretations of technical issues. This arrangement provides EPA with access to the USGS' wealth of technical knowledge of the geology and hydrology of the Hanford Site and surrounding areas. It also provides EPA with unbiased technical advise on critical issues related to their regulatory decisions at Hanford.

Approach - As requested by EPA, the USGS will participate in planning meetings with representatives of the EPA, USDOE, and their contractors to discuss scientific approaches for addressing site characterization and ecological risk assessment needs. The USGS will review and comment on technical documents related to characterization and remediation, concentrating on sections pertaining to geologic and hydrologic characterization and ecological risk. The USGS will meet with representatives of the EPA, USDOE, and their contractors to discuss and resolve disputes on the technical approach and execution of the investigations. The USGS will provide technical assistance related to issues of site-wide modeling, and other activities as requested by EPA.