This fact sheet describes Washington's commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facility, what wastes go in it, how it operates, and a proposed final closure plan for the facility.
The low-level radioactive waste disposal site has accepted waste since 1965 on an 100-acre tract within the U.S. Department of Energy's Hanford Site. The land is leased to the state and subleased to US Ecology, Inc. The site operates under radioactive materials licenses issued by the Department of Health. Since 1993, it has been the regional commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal site for 11 western states. To date, the site has taken about 14 million cubic feet of waste.
What goes into the facility?
Wastes allowed at the facility are low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) and naturally occurring and accelerator produced radioactive material (NARM). Typical LLRW generators include private industry, government, academic and medical laboratories, and power utilities. Wastes can include contaminated equipment and protective clothing. NARM generators include water treatment and mineral processing facilities, coal-fired power plants, the oil and gas industry, and manufacturers of fertilizer and pharmaceuticals. An example of NARM waste is oil well pipe contaminated with radium.
The majority of waste is buried in steel boxes or drums. Liquid waste must be solidified. All waste containers are placed in trenches that are typically 45 feet deep, 850 feet long, and 150 feet wide. All radioactive waste shipments are inspected by Department of Health's on-site inspector before disposal is allowed. After a trench is filled with waste, it is covered with at least eight feet of soil and six inches of gravel.
State and federal laws require sites to be closed to minimize release of contaminants to the environment.
Department of Health and Department of Ecology jointly issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Commercial Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site on May 28, 2004. The FEIS preferred site closure alternative is to construct a GeoSynthetic cover in three phases. The first phase is construction of a low permeability cover over all existing waste (40 acres). The second phase completes the cover over the first 40 acres. The third phase is ongoing and will construct the final cover in planned phases, as waste is disposed.
US Ecology will monitor the site through the expiration of its lease in 2063. The state or the federal government will oversee the site at least through 2163.
Contact Kristen Schwab or 360-236-3244.
Department of Health
P.O. Box 47827
Olympia, Washington 98504-7827