In Hanford, Wash., the country's most polluted nuclear reactor site draws tourists
- By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times
The reactors have long been shut down, but the surrounding land rumbles with bulldozers, dump trucks and crews in radiation suits working on a $2-billion-a-year cleanup project -- the most expensive such project in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The irony is that although the reactors contaminated hundreds of acres, government restrictions on access left the surrounding lands largely undisturbed for more than 40 years, allowing wildlife to flourish.
The effort to make the Hanford Reach a tourist hot spot got a boost in 2000, when President Clinton proclaimed 195,000 acres along the river and around the nuclear site a national monument. About 60,000 people now visit annually, including anglers, hikers, birders and history buffs.
That number is likely to grow under a plan by the National Park Service to upgrade boat launches and picnic sites and to open the B reactor for regular public tours. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is also expected this month to approve a recommendation by the park service to declare the B reactor a National Historic Landmark.