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March 27, 2015
The U.S. Department of Energy has disposed of 17 million tons of contaminated material at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility in Hanford since the landfill opened in 1996. A DOE news release says that's a record.
Most of the waste at ERDF comes from a 220-square-mile corridor along the banks of the Columbia River. The low-level waste is mainly soil contaminated by Hanford's nine reactors that operated from 1943 to 1987.
Designed to be expanded, ERDF consists of disposal areas called cells. Each pair of cells is 70 feet deep, 500 feet wide and 1,000 feet long at the base. Of the 10 current cells, eight can each hold 2.8 million tons of material and two can each hold 5.6 million tons.
As each pair of cells reaches capacity, an interim cover is installed to prevent water infiltration. A permanent cap will be placed over the facility when cleanup is finished at Hanford.
ERDF is managed by Washington Closure Hanford. It is the largest disposal facility in the DOE cleanup complex, covering 107 acres at the base of the disposal trench — about 52 football fields — with a current capacity of 18 million tons.