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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.

Washington State Presses Feds For Cleanup Of Tunnels, Failing Infrastructure At Hanford

U.S. Department of Energy
This map shows the location of the PUREX plant on the 586-square-mile Hanford Site.

Washington state is taking legal action against the U.S. government after a tunnel full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday at the Hanford nuclear site.?

Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon called the incident “alarming” and said state officials need to hold the feds accountable to cleanup the site. She said the U.S. Department of Energy needs to immediately assess the integrity of the tunnels and fix them.

The infrastructure built to temporarily store radioactive waste is now more than 50 years old. The state said the tunnel collapse is direct evidence that it's failing.

The Yakama Nation, a group of Northwest tribes, is also calling for quicker cleanup of the tunnels.

At the Hanford nuclear site, workers have filled the tunnel cave-in with dirt and employees there are returning to work.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.