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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.

Regulators Say Leaking Hanford Tanks Pose No Threat To Locals

Department of Energy

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Environmental regulators are assuring lawmakers in Olympia that leaking radioactive material from tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has not yet reached ground water. The comments came at a hearing Thursday in the Washington Senate.

Hanford managers have said six single-shelled tanks are leaking nuclear waste.

Sen. Doug Ericksen had two questions for Jane Hedges from the Washington Department of Ecology, “Is there a threat to human health currently because of what’s happening and is this material reaching the Columbia River?

Hedges replied, “Thank you, senator and I’m sorry I didn’t address that. No, there is no threat to anyone at this time: workers on the site, people in the Tri-Cities or in the region.”

Hedges said it will take decades for the leaking waste to reach ground water. Currently, a treatment plant at the Hanford site removes radioactive and chemical impurities from tainted ground water.