The cost of cleaning up pollution from nuclear weapons manufacturing is estimated to be $377 billion. This reflects cleanup cost estimates for 16 sites across the United States. Two of these, the Hanford site in Washington and Savannah River site in South Carolina, have most of nuclear waste stored in tanks, which is particularly costly and complicated to treat.
These clean up costs grew by $214 billion between 2011 and 2018 and they will continue to grow for several reasons including the lack of a program-wide cleanup strategy and reliance primarily on individual sites to locally negotiate cleanup activities and establish priorities. For example, the Hanford and Savannah River sites plan to treat similar radioactive tank waste differently, with Hanford’s efforts possibly costing tens of billions more than Savannah River’s. In addition, the government manages most of its cleanup work as operations activities, under less stringent requirements than other environmental remediation projects. For example, operations activities are not subject to independent oversight.