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Environment and Planning
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.

There's Little Space To Pump Out Hanford's Possible Leaking Tank

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Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – A Hanford Nuclear Reservation watchdog says U.S. Energy officials have bigger problems than the waste that has possibly leaking from a tank in southeast Washington. The tank called T-111, is losing about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid waste a year.

Tom Carpenter heads the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge. He says Friday’s news highlights the fact that there’s little space to move highly radioactive waste to.

So Carpenter asks, “If you have another leak, what do you do? You don’t have any strategy for that. And the Hanford Advisory Board and the state of Washington and Hanford Challenge and others have been calling upon the Department of Energy to build new tanks. That call has been met with silence.”

In fact, a separate tank was found leaking internally last year and officials are still working on a solution for that problem. Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a press conference Friday that this latest tank leak may have been going on for years.

The 177 underground tanks at Hanford were built during WWII and the Cold War. They’ve been guarding the leftovers from plutonium production. The Department of Energy is building a massive waste treatment plant at Hanford, but the project has been plagued with design problems and management strife.