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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.

New Federal Plan On Hanford Tank Farms Coming Soon

US Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – The federal government plans to release a major document early next week that could guide a couple of decades worth of cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. This is important because it maps out decisions like where to bury the radioactive waste, and how much to leave in place.

The new document is huge -- 6,000 pages huge. And it’s taken about 10 years to draft.

Overall, the plan says the department would prefer to clean up about 99 percent of the tank waste left over from World War II and the Cold War. The rest of that gunk -- or about 560,000 gallons, would be left where it is. That’s along with the tanks where it’s currently stored.

“And so we could do some sort of grout or other process to fill the tank and close it in place,” says Carrie Meyer, with the Department of Energy.

Meyer says the document also says the Energy department would remove and treat some soil around the tanks. The plan also directs cleanup of the Fast Flux Test Facility and which kinds of low-level radioactive waste would be buried in trenches at Hanford.

On the Web:

Hanford clean-up documents (

NEPA Policy and Compliance documents (US Department of Energy)

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

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.