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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.

Fresh Litigation Over Hanford A 'Definite Possibility' Says Washington AG

Department of Energy

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The latest Hanford waste leak will be on the agenda as Washington Governor Jay Inslee meets Friday with US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. Meanwhile, Washington’s Attorney General says legal action to force a more aggressive clean up schedule at Hanford is possible.

The meeting between Governor Inslee and Secretary Chu follows last week’s announcement of an apparent new leak at Hanford - up to 300 gallons of highly radioactive waste per year from a buried single-shell tank. There is no imminent threat, but Inslee says he wants to have an in-depth conversation with the outgoing Energy Secretary about the pace of Hanford clean-up.

The Governor says more legal action is always an option. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, speaking on TVW’s Inside Olympia program, says fresh litigation is now more likely.

“We have cases pending right now [in] the DC Court of Appeals, Eastern District of Washington where we have the consent decree," Ferguson says. "So there’s ongoing legal issues that are there and I think it’s a definite possibility that this most recent news could change the equation a bit on how we move forward, yes.”

Under a 1989 pact known as the Tri Party agreement, the US Department of Energy must meet specific milestones in the clean-up of 56 million gallons of radioactive waste.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."