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Integrated Field Research Challenge Site

Integrated Field Research Challenge - Hanford 300 Area

Solving Uranium Migration at the Hanford Site

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is leading a field study at the Hanford Site in Richland, Washington, to identify new approaches and strategies to help resolve questions about the movement of subsurface contaminants.

Integrated Field Study In an integrated field study sponsored by DOE's Environmental Research Science Division, researchers are evaluating hypotheses related to a uranium plume that resulted from nuclear fuel fabrication at the Hanford site from 1943 to 1975.

The field study is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Integrated Field-Scale Subsurface Research Challenge, a new program that commits multi-investigator teams to performing large, benchmark-type experiments on formidable field-scale science issues.  The field sites will provide capabilities to collect, permit, and ship environmental samples of different types to other program investigators and provide site access to those interested in testing specific concepts or technologies/techniques relevant to the study of subsurface contaminant fate and transport.

The program is managed by DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research's Environmental Remediation Sciences Division.  The Hanford Field Study involves the development, characterization, and instrumentation of a vadose zone and saturated zone field site.  Researchers will perform state-of-science field experiments at these sites to resolve the geochemical, hydrophysical, and microbiologic factors that control the migration of contaminant uranium through the vadose zone (water unsaturated sediments below the soil and above groundwater) and groundwater.

The research site is adjacent to the Columbia River in Hanford's 300 Area and will allow studies of the how river stage effects influence contaminant dissipation from the aquifer and discharge to the river.  The 300 Area is located near the southern boundary of the Hanford Site north of Richland; allowing full access by a diverse and accomplished scientific team involving PNNL, university, and other lab participants.

According to PNNL Project Manager John Zachara, the field study at Hanford is perfectly suited for closely examining the processes controlling uranium migration in a complex subsurface environment.  "This field study brings to bear the best science available and will help us resolve questions about the movement of subsurface contaminants at Hanford and other DOE sites."

During the 5-year project, researchers will develop field-scale experimental information on subsurface uranium migration processes that will allow the development of improved reactive transport models for describing and predicting future uranium fluxes to the Columbia River and the efficacy of proposed remediation strategies.  A team of scientists from PNNL, three other DOE laboratories, four universities, and the U.S. Geological Survey are involved. DOE contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company, LLC (CPRC) is responsible for remediating the lower vadose zone and groundwater in this area.  The Washington Hanford Group has excavated and removed contaminated surface sediments from the historic process ponds and trench that served as contamination sources and regarded the site surface.

Hanford 300 Area Site

Biological Sciences Division