Projects Big and Small

The Small Project:


We bought this tray on our Mazatlan honeymoon in 1980.  Thirty-four years later it made the move with us into the trailer.  We are still using the tray but my taste in tile has changed.   I planned to look for replacement tiles the next time we were in Mexico.

fullsizeoutput_482fI was surprised to find Mexican tile on Vancouver Island and delighted to find a design I liked well enough to purchase.   

Randy removed the tiles but unavoidably destroyed the bottom in the process.  That necessitated a delay until we got somewhere with tools!

fullsizeoutput_48c2We went to my cousin Lisa’s house!   Her husband Chris has all the appropriate tools and the project was completed with help from him and everyone else.


Randy decided I should finish up the project.  I used hot glue to place the tiles so if I decide to change designs again they will come off more easily.


Workers and supervisors of the small project:  My mom Beverly, Lisa, me, Chris, Kylee and Aunt Bonnie.


I’m very happy with my new old tray!

We didn’t actually go to Lisa’s house to fix my tray – it just worked out that way.   My mom was visiting them to go to Kylee’s softball game and we made a change to our schedule to be there too.

We had a nice time watching Kylee’s games!   They finished the league in first place.

We always enjoy staying with my cousins and aunt.  They have the best RV park in their backyard, the food is always great, and we play a lot of cards!


We should have taken a picture when my mom was still there!

The Big Project

We also had the opportunity to take our second Hanford Tour.  My family has extensive history with Hanford and we took the B Reactor tour a couple years ago.  Learn about the history of Hanford and the development of plutonium for the Manhattan Project in our blog  Familiar and Family Ground .


This second tour was about the ongoing clean up of the 640 square mile Hanford site.  Security was tight and they don’t allow cell phones or cameras.  Chris has worked in clean up operations and was able to help me out with some visuals.

During 50+  years of plutonium production 100,000 tons of fuel from reactors, 450 billion gallons of liquids and soil waste, and 56 million gallons of radioactive waste were disposed of.   


Some was dumped into vast holes and buried.


Some were put in drums and then into vertical pipes and buried.


The tops of those vertical pipes are visible in this photo as clean up begins.


Laborers in hazmat suits meet the challenges of whatever waste is encountered.   Radiation levels are monitored for every worker.



Truck drivers like Chris move the waste to a new engineered land fill, reducing the chance of leakage into the nearby Columbia River or ground water.


Site 618-10, the area where Chris worked, is massive!


Clean up in this section is done!

The shift to clean up mode on the Hanford site began in 1989.  It is regulated by the Tri-Party Agreement between the Department of Energy, The Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology.  

A primary focus is dealing with 177 steel tanks containing hazardous waste.    Every tank contains a unique “witches brew” that may be liquid, sludge, or salt-cake in form.

One hundred and forty nine of the tanks are single wall construction and 67 have already leaked a combined 1 million gallons of hazardous waste into the ground. All are long past their 20 year life expectancy.  The current urgency is to take waste from the single wall tanks and put them into the larger, safer double wall tanks.   There are 28 double wall tanks and one of those is already compromised.  The other 27 are at or near the end of their 40 year life expectancy.

The longterm solution is to move the waste from single wall tanks to double wall tanks and then through a vitrification process.  This process adds silica and heats the waste to to produce a stable, radioactive glass.  The glass would then be stored permanently in stainless steel containers.

The lower level radioactive glass would be stored at Hanford indefinitely.   The high level radioactive glass would be moved to Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository (or substitute facility) if it is ever built.   


Continuing with big projects, the Hanford Vitrification Plant is currently the largest construction project in the United States. It employs 2800 people.   The Vit Plant is scheduled to begin processing low level waste in 2022 and high level waste in 2029.

Yearly budgets from Congress are an annual fight.  Each year a greater percentage of the monies are needed just to maintain the status quo.   Without budget increases, clean up schedules will slip.

Hanford clean up is more than just a big project – it is a massive project.  It is America’s largest superfund site – largest in dollars and largest in area – a site larger than Los Angeles.  

Hanford has a complex legacy.  Many believe the technologies and plutonium developed shortened WWII and saved lives.   The radioactive byproducts of plutonium development were not the focus, winning WWII and the Cold War were.  

With the focus shifted to cleaning up the vast Hanford landscape, new technologies are developed to meet each new challenge .   Although goals of restoration, protecting the Columbia River, and returning as much land as possible to local tribes are lofty, we saw good things happening on our tour.  


Thank you for your work Chris!


About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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2 Responses to Projects Big and Small

  1. Mark says:

    Nice job on re-tiling the bottom of your tray. It takes a village!!

    I had no idea about the scope of that Hanford clean-up. We as humans are certainly capable of making enormous messes, aren’t we?? Hopefully we are as good at cleaning them up!

  2. Elaine Ehlers says:

    What an interesting blog. I think the new tile in your tray is so neat. The Hanford clean up seems so huge but will be Interested in knowing what progress is being made on it.

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