Senior Project Advisor

Jean Melious

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


hyperobject, risk society, the Hanford Site, nuclear waste, remediation, disposal


Prior to being decommissioned in 1987, the Hanford Site— a nuclear production complex located in Benton County, Washington— was the local for reprocessing a large portion of the nation’s supply of plutonium and uranium. Now, over 30 years later, 430 million curies of radioactive waste are kept on-site in surface facilities or underground tanks which are beginning to deteriorate, and nearly two thousand capsules of highly radioactive cesium and strontium sit in an aging facility. This waste includes cesium-135, a by-product of plutonium production which has a half-life of nearly two million years. While the proposed disposal method of burial in a deep geological repository provides a means of isolating the waste from the human populace, in two million years, human culture will be fundamentally different, if not gone entirely. Contextualized by decisions made at other nuclear waste disposal sites globally, this paper discusses ways in which policymakers have grappled with both managing and warning future generations about nuclear radiation, an object massively distributed throughout space and time that challenges normative conceptions of what an “object” is, to begin with. While there is a wide array of proposals to deter future interference with waste stored deep underground, the inevitable design flaws suggest that perhaps nuclear waste should not be buried out of public sight at all. The present remediation at the Hanford Site provides a unique opportunity to reflect upon mankind’s direct role in the creation of nuclear waste and consider strategies to inform future generations of its presence in ways that surpass the written word.


Environmental Studies

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Radioactive waste repositories--Washington (State); Radioactive waste disposal--Political aspects; Radioactive wastes--Environmental aspects

Subjects - Names (LCNAF)

Hanford Site (Wash.)






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