Radioactive contamination spreading within Hanford plant.

Radioactive contamination is spreading within one of Hanford’s huge processing plants, and the problem could escalate as the plant, unused since the 1960s, continues to deteriorate.

A new report on the Reduction-Oxidation Complex, more commonly called REDOX, recommends that $181 million be spent on interim cleanup and maintenance of the plant. REDOX is not scheduled to be demolished until about 2032, or possibly later because the nearby 222-S Laboratory in central Hanford will be needed to support the Hanford vitrification plant for another 30 to 40 years.


The REDOX plant, one of five large processing plants at Hanford, is deteriorating and radioactive waste within it is spreading.

Doing some work on the building soon could reduce the threat of contamination spreading outside the building, including by animals, a break in a utility pipe or a fire, according to the report. Recommended work also would help protect Hanford workers.
 REDOX was used from 1952-67 to process about 24,000 tons of irradiated uranium fuel rods to remove plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program and also to recover uranium to reuse in new fuel rods. It is highly contaminated, after processing eight times more fuel per day than earlier processing plants.

The main building is huge, measuring 468 feet long, 161 feet wide and 60 feet tall, with additional underground processing area.

Each annual inspection of some parts of the plant from 2012-15 found an escalation in the spread of radioactive contamination, including by precipitation that has leaked through the roof and joints of the concrete building.

Spread of contamination has been observed throughout the buildings and will intensify as the facilities continue to degrade.

DOE report on REDOX

Salt used to neutralize the contaminated processing system after it was shut down in 1967 appears to have corroded through some of the stainless steel process piping, according to an earlier Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board staff report.

Plastic bags were taped on one processing line to catch any drips of residual plutonium nitrate in places where leaks were anticipated. Two of the bags hold significant amounts of plutonium nitrate, which will spread if the bags leak, the DOE report said.

Signs of animal intrusion and deteriorating asbestos have been found in inspections of several areas.

 The main part of the plant — a long, high “canyon” — has not been entered since 1997. But “based on current conditions in areas where surveillance inspections are performed, water accumulation, animal intrusion, structure deterioration and contamination spread are expected,” the report said.

REDOX was used from 1952-67 to process about 24,000 tons of irradiated uranium fuel rods to remove plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program and also to recover uranium to reuse in new fuel rods.

The report considered three plans to slow down deterioration and take action to confine contamination and reduce its spread, recommending the most extensive of the three alternatives. The plans range in cost from $148 million to $181 million.

Actions would include tearing down the plant’s radioactively contaminated Nitric Acid and Iodine Recovery Building and the main plant’s attached annexes. Two underground, single-shell tanks used to hold up to 24,000 gallons each of hexone also would be removed, if possible. Hexone was used in the process to extract plutonium from fuel rods.

Elsewhere in the plant, steps would be taken to reduce current hazards, which also could help prepare for the eventual demolition of the plant. Waste could be stabilized by isolating it or covering it with a fixative. Piping out of the plant could be plugged, fluids could be drained from piping and equipment, and some equipment could be removed.

Modifications to the plant’s ventilation system would be needed for some of the work.

The actions also target maintaining a skilled workforce at the Hanford Site that is experienced in contaminated deactivation and decommissioning work, which will be needed when major funding becomes available in the future.

DOE report on REDOX

Doing the proposed work would help retain workers experienced in decommissioning nuclear facilities at Hanford. They will be needed as more federal money becomes available for central Hanford environmental cleanup in the future, the report said.

DOE will consider public comments before a decision is made to proceed with work. Work would be done over the next several years as money is available and as the need for the work at REDOX is balanced against other Hanford cleanup priorities.

Simple Steps to Help Protect Against Radiation Exposure.

Our lives are so very busy that sometimes it seems that worrying about one more environmental health threat is too much to bear.  But there are some simple steps to take on a daily basis that can help to protect our internal environment from man-made radiation.


When considering radiation exposure it’s crucial to understand the Principle of Selective Uptake, as explained in nutritionist Sara Shannon’s book Radiation Protective Foods.  Simply put, when we load and maintain adequate stores of vitamins and minerals in our systems, the unhealthy minerals (think heavy metals and radionuclides) are less likely to be absorbed. Stable elements in our diet are similar to unstable and radioactive elements, the body doesn’t know the difference at first. If we have a sufficient amount of the stable type stored in our system, we won’t absorb their radioactive counterparts as readily. Just as we’ve heard that taking potassium iodide helps to protect the thyroid against radiation, the same principle applies to calcium, magnesium and other healthy minerals that are required so that Strontium 90 and Cesium 137 to name a few, won’t be readily attracted to the bones, heart, and other organs.  There is always a point to consider where the total body burden could potentially be too high to maintain a healthy state, but steps can be taken on a daily basis to help manage toxins while we also address the problem at it’s core.

Taking a high quality, digestible multivitamin and mineral supplement formulation takes some of the guesswork out of the equation while helping to keep the body from a depleted state.   While vitamins have been generally given more attention,  healthy minerals must not be overlooked and are just as critical for human health.  (Due to reports of radiation contamination from Fukushima Daiichi, please examine labels carefully to ensure that the iodine is not sourced from kelp, and that omega 3′s are plant based and not from fish, especially tuna.)

Ms. Shannon deserves a huge amount of credit for both her first book, Diet for the Atomic Age and her updated book cited above, Radiation Protective Foods.  She also understands that it’s not enough try to protect ourselves from the effects of man-made radiation. Indeed the problem must be addressed at it’s very source ~ the nuclear power industry. Radiation is not only coming from Fukushima, far from it.  Every operating nuclear reactor in the world emits radiation via planned “batch releases” as an inherent part of reactor functionality.

In addition to a multivitamin and mineral supplement, there are some other tools to keep on hand for an immune system regimen including Vitamin C, apple pectin fiber, fresh garlic, chlorella, spirulina and zeolite tincture.  Be sure to research the source by calling the company or searching online.

And last (for now) but not least, always be sure to maintain a positive outlook.  Repetitive stress endangers us by our lowering our immunity. When dealing with stress responses, the body’s natural healing functions are essentially disabled.  Daily meditation, even for five minutes, has been proven to help reduce stress and improve health.  Prayer or giving thanks to an entity larger then ourselves has also been shown to be beneficial to our health. And giving thanks before eating meals helps redirect us away from a stress response to a more healthy way of being.

Simple, small steps to take to give us, our families and communities a fighting chance in a stressful world.