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The Hanford Nuclear Site, located in Eastern Washington, is home to nine nuclear reactors that produced 60% of the plutonium that fueled the US’s nuclear weapons arsenal, including plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Though the reactors are no longer in operation, the radioactive waste they produced continues to pose a major challenge to public health. The nuclear waste created at Hanford poses a threat to the Columbia River and beyond.

Hanford is currently the largest environmental cleanup project in the world. Educating the public about the environmental and public health threats posed by Hanford has been a priority for WPSR for decades.

Our educational resources include:

  • A free online curriculum
  • Down by the River: Stories of Hanford, a podcast series devoted to unpacking the long and controversial history of Hanford 
  • Recorded seminars on the worldwide impacts of Hanford 


Educating for Activism

hanford curriculum

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Educating for Activism is a curriculum focused on the area that became the Hanford nuclear reservation, as well as the Columbia River and the Tri-Cities. It is divided into six modules, each of which highlights a different period of Hanford history: Geology, Native American Tribes, Home to New Settlers, The Manhattan Project, The Cold War, and Cleanup and Restoration. This curriculum has an interdisciplinary focus, using history, society, culture, and the arts to provide a holistic understanding of Hanford and its impacts on the world. It is designed to appeal to multiple learning styles, and each module can be used independently. The goal is to provide users with a greater understanding of not only the nuclear history of Washington State but also the ripples it has left in its wake. In addition to the free online sources, there is a bibliography of relevant texts with discussion questions to promote critical thinking in students.

The curriculum is most appropriate for use in college and high school courses.

Down by the River: Stories of Hanford

podcast series


Down by the River: Stories of Hanford is an audio podcast devoted to unpacking the long and nuanced history of the world's first industrial nuclear reactor. Built along the Columbia River, the Hanford Nuclear Site produced 60% of the plutonium used in the US nuclear arsenal. At the end of the Cold War, the mission of Hanford transitioned from production to remediation of the area. When it shut down production, Hanford had 1,700 identified waste sites, 500 contaminated buildings, and 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste stored underground. Cleanup at Hanford – which has been ongoing for 26 years – will last for decades to come, cost billions of taxpayer dollars, and require technology not yet invented. On each podcast, we will explore the science and the personal stories of Hanford to give listeners a deeper and broader understanding of a place that is a significant part of our country's past, and a difficult challenge for our future.

Hanford Resources

Recorded Seminars


Particles on the Wall 

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Particles on the Wall (POTW) is an interdisciplinary exhibit that fuses art, science, and history to explore Hanford, the Columbia River and the Atomic Age. The exhibit features visual art, literary works, memorabilia, and scientific information to explorer the complicated issues that surround Hanford’s legacy of nuclear weapons production and its current cleanup challenges. The full exhibit includes over 100 pieces and continues to evolve.

From 2010 - June 2016, WPSR through grants from WA Department of Ecology provided support to Particles on the Wall, working with the exhibit’s founders and curators: Nancy Dickeman, Dianne Dickeman, and Steven Gilbert. WPSR continues to recommend this project. As an extension of POTW, the Atomic Footprints poster series shares excerpts from POTW as a portable display for venues that would not be able to host the physical exhibit. The series of seven posters features art and poetry from POTW with relevant historical and scientific information.  POTW is now an ongoing project of the curators.  

For more information: www.particlesonthewall.org


Washington Nuclear Museum and Education Center

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The Washington Nuclear Museum and Education Center (WANMEC) provides extensive information on the history of Hanford and the current cleanup, as well as the effects of activities at Hanford on the local residents and the surrounding environment. Through historical information, firsthand accounts, art, and poetry, WANMEC educates the public about nuclear issues related to Hanford, generates public interest and informed perspective on the cleanup effort, and conveys the diverse emotions that accompany these issues.


nuclear power at hanford 

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The Columbia Generating Station (CGS), located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, is the only nuclear power plant operating in the Pacific Northwest. Previously known as the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) plant #2 (WNP-2), CGS has a GE Boiling Water Reactor with a Mark II containment system. The plant began operating in 1984 along the Columbia River, north of Richland, Washington. The plant produces around 4% of the Pacific Northwest’s electricity on an average annual basis.

CGS was the only nuclear plant completed by Washington public power utilities out of five under construction, leading to what was at the time the largest municipal bond default in US history. WPPSS (pronounced “whoops”) has since changed its name to Energy Northwest.

Ten years in advance of its license expiration, Energy Northwest went before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and extended the plant’s license until 2043, a full 20 years beyond its designed life.

In May, 2016, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution, drafted in part by activists from Physicians for Social Responsibility and others from the anti-nuclear movement. It calls on Seattle City Light to oppose the Columbia Generating Station, the sole nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest, and to support replacing it with green energy. Read more about the resolution here

Due to economic concerns and risks to human health and the environment, Washington PSR has partnered with Oregon PSR to work towards shutting down CGS. Both groups are also part of Nuclear Free Northwest coalition.

View resources from the joint OR-WA Nuclear Power Task Force, including links to articles about CGS, small modular reactors, Fukushima, and renewable energy