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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.

Contractors Say Hanford Layoffs Due To 'Budget Uncertainty'

Anna King
Northwest News Network
File photo of the under-construction waste treatment plant at Hanford.

Three federal contractors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation say they’ll lay off 450 workers over the next year.

The firms say Thursday’s announcement is largely due to federal budget uncertainty.

The three companies work on Hanford’s tank farms, cleanup contaminated ground water and provide support services at the nuclear site. Many of the 450 workers will be let go in the next few months, the others by next fall.

Dean Schau, an instructor of economics with Columbia Basin College in Pasco, says the Tri-Cities region has been one of the fastest growing metro-areas in the Northwest.

“We’re talking about 450 workers in an economy that generates over 100,000 jobs. Again, it’s not good for those workers and no time is a good time to be looking for work. If anything it will just slow our growth for a while.”

Those who watch Hanford cleanup closely, say it’s too soon to tell how these layoffs will affect the pace of work at the site.

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.