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00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Communications Breakdown Delayed Response After Contamination At Hanford

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U.S. Department of Energy

Upper managers didn’t know that some radioactive waste had gotten outside of bounds at a Hanford demolition site for more than a day. And that delay could have worsened the spread of contamination.

When workers found radioactive waste in areas where it shouldn’t have been, they did everything right. Everything, except notify higher managers. And that delay could have worsened the spread.

Now, dozens of yellow blobs mark up a fresh map showing where officials have found contamination where it shouldn’t be. And 14 cars have also been found to have be contaminated. Seven of those are personal vehicles and at least two have been off site into town. One has contamination inside the car.

Now at least 7 homes around town are on schedule to be inspected thoroughly. And demolition work has stopped at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, where the escaped radioactive waste was first found.

The Department of Energy has had multiple requests from workers for fecal lab tests.