Cleaning Up

Posted on: Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 by Monica Hoel
Jo Marie Woodward ('87) is working to clean up radiation and make the world a bit safer.

Jo Marie Woodward Johnson been working for the past 5 years as a scientist and manager for Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 222-S Laboratory at the Hanford site in southeastern Washington State. The lab is a full-service analytical facility that handles highly radioactive samples for purposes of organic, inorganic, and radiochemical analyses.

WRPS is the U.S. Department of Energy Office of River Protection’s prime contractor responsible for safely managing the 56 million gallons of highly radioactive and chemical waste stored in 177 underground tanks at the Hanford Site waste until it is prepared for disposal. The tank waste is material left over from years of World War II and post-war production of nuclear weapons. 

The Hanford Site sits on 586-square-miles of shrub-steppe desert in southeastern Washington State along the Columbia River, and holds 60% of the nation’s defense-related nuclear waste, making it the largest federal cleanup site. Beginning in 1943, the site was used to produce plutonium for the bomb that brought an end to World War II. After a short lull, production was ramped up in 1947 to meet the challenges of the “Cold War” and continued until 1987 when the last reactor ceased operation. Weapons production processes left solid and liquid wastes that posed a risk to the local environment including the Columbia River. In 1989, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Washington State Department of Ecology entered into a legally binding accord, the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA), to clean up the Hanford Site and reduce the risk it poses to the environment.

Jo Marie also serves on the Executive Committee of the Richland section of the American Chemical Society and was elected Chair of the section in 2014. The Richland section was founded in 1948 and has over 500 members in South Central Washington, South East Washington, and Northeast Oregon. 

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