Yakima County Development Association - Hanfords Future Important to the Yakima Valley

Jonathan Smith

The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news. 



Hanfords Future Important to the Yakima Valley

August 04, 2011

At our July Board forum we were treated to a program on the Hanford Reservation.  Dana Bryson, Deputy Assistant Manager for the River Corridor, talked about Hanford's history and current status. As part of his presentation Bryson aired an Emmy award winning video on Hanford's history. Our audience learned that:

    • The Hanford Site consists of 586 square miles. The entire City of Los Angeles would easily fit inside the reservation boundaries;


    • 51,000 workers helped construct Hanford's original nuclear facilities. The project was so secret that only 500 of these employees actually knew what they were building;


    • The initial facilities took 13 months to build (from design to operation!) and there were few if any blueprints made to guide construction efforts; and


    • Hanford has 370 miles of roads, 185 miles of electrical power lines, 12,000 phone lines, 1.2 million square feet of buildings, and 66 miles of water pipes – it's a small city.

Clean up is progressing at the reservation. Over the last twenty years over 4 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater has been treated, all spent nuclear fuel has been moved to dry storage, all of the reservation's plutonium has been shipped out of state, and waste in 149 single shell underground tanks has been stabilized. Clean up efforts have advanced but there is still decades of remediation work still needed.  There are still over 53 million gallons of waste that need attention at the site.

Construction crews are working on an elaborate waste treatment plant that will vitrify waste into glass. This plant, which is the world's largest environmental construction project, is expected to come on line in 2019. It will then operate for decades processing residual waste from the site. As the site gets cleaned up parts of the reservation are being eyed for commercial or industrial development. The core part of the site used for plutonium production will likely always be controlled by the government, but there is definitely a different future envisioned for the Hanford Reservation that is slowly taking shape.

Bryson told our group that employment will continue to drop at the reservation as the waste treatment plant gets finished. He said that current layoffs are primarily due to the fact that most of the federal stimulus money flowing to Hanford has been spent.

Hanford is extremely important to the Yakima Valley. We have hundreds of residents who work at Hanford. Quite a few local businesses provide supplies and services to the Department of Energy and its Hanford contractors. Our region's economic future will undoubtedly be impacted by Hanford so it is important that we keep our eye on what becomes of this reservation in the years ahead.

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