The commercial low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal site is located in Benton County and is approximately 23 miles northwest of Richland, Washington. It is situated near the center of the 560 square mile United States Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) Hanford Site (Hanford) on approximately 100 acres of federal land leased to the state of Washington. It has been in operation since 1965 and is currently operated by US Ecology, Inc.
The site practices conventional shallow-land burial of packaged waste into unlined trenches. The trenches are approximately 800 feet long, 150 feet wide and 45 feet deep. In addition to the trenches, five underground storage tanks were installed for treatment and disposal of liquid low-level radioactive resin wastes. There are currently three open operating trenches and 20 filled trenches including one nuclear reactor vessel and three emptied underground tanks. The filled trenches have been covered with at least five feet of site soils. At current rates of waste disposal, fewer than ten more trenches will be filled by the proposed closure date of year 2056. At the current rates of disposal, only approximately 60% of the total available disposal capacity at the 100-acre commercial disposal site will be used.
Several types of waste have been disposed at the commercial LLRW disposal site since 1965. Waste types include low-level radioactive, naturally occurring and accelerator produced material (NARM), non-radioactive hazardous, and mixed waste (radioactive waste having a hazardous component). Since 1985, only low-level radioactive waste and NARM have been allowed for disposal. Low-level radioactive waste is waste such as trash, clothing, tools, hardware, and equipment that has been contaminated by radioactive substances.
The low-level radioactive waste at the commercial LLRW disposal site is typically generated by five sources. These sources are nuclear power plants, industrial users, government and military organizations, academic institutions, and the medical community. NARM waste includes, but is not limited to, pipe scale from oil and gas pipelines, soils from cleanup of mineral processing sites, and measuring devices and gauges.
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