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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.

Sen. Wyden: Hanford Will Be Priority For Next Energy Secretary

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US Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – Problems at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will be a key issue in the confirmation hearings for the next Secretary of Energy. That’s what Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said after he toured the southeast Washington site Tuesday.

Wyden chairs the Senate committee that will consider President Obama’s pick to replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The Oregon Democrat toured Hanford’s tank farms, where millions of gallons of radioactive waste is stored. Two of those tanks have possible leaks.

Wyden also saw the massive treatment plant meant to stabilize all that sludge. And the factory is facing serious technical questions and management strife.

Wyden says he’ll make sure the new Secretary of Energy commits to cleaning up Hanford’s legacy waste.

“When you have a confirmation hearing that is one of the best opportunities to secure policies that are going to make a difference.”

Wyden also says on his tour, guides from the Department of Energy could not answer his questions about what changes are needed to clean up this waste, when those changes will be completed and how much they will cost.

On the Web:

Energy & Natural Resources Committee - US Senate