Evaluating Toxic Pollution at a Former Nuclear Reactor

Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960.
Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960. (U.S. Dept. of Energy)

Evaluating Toxic Pollution at a Former Nuclear Reactor

April 29, 2016

Chromium, manganese, zinc … these elements can help you keep you healthy when they’re in your daily multivitamin. But sometimes, when found in water and soil, these elements can cause serious problems for fish, birds, and wildlife.

At the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, we are evaluating how discharges of chromium may have affected soils, river sediments, groundwater, and surface waters. The discharges—resulting from nuclear fuel production—flowed into the Columbia River, which borders the property.

We’re very concerned about whether the chromium affected Chinook salmon eggs and young fish. The nuclear reactors, first constructed as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, required huge amounts of water to keep the core cool. Chromium compounds were added to keep this essential equipment from corroding.

Learn more about how we are studying the environmental impacts at this nuclear site.