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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.

Inslee: Leaking Tank Waste Removal Can't Begin For Years

RICHLAND, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says it may take two to four years to begin removing liquids from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The Democratic governor made the comments Wednesday after a tour of the southeast Washington site.

The governor told reporters on the tour that there is no technology that can stop the leaks.

“The bad news is that unfortunately there will be some continuing leakage in these tanks while we’re experiencing this. However, there is a very active pump and treating system -- you may have seen as we were driving by -- a brand new pump and treat system that is showing great success.”

That treatment system pumps out contaminated groundwater at Hanford and replaces it with water that meets regulatory standards.

Separately, Wednesday, the Department of Energy announced that salt caves in the New Mexico desert are its preferred resting place for a small portion of Hanford's radioactive tank waste.

After his tour, Inslee told me in an interview that he views the leaking tanks at Hanford as urgent as if they were spilling out into his front lawn.

“I’m going to do everything humanly possible to move as quickly as humanly possible. In regard to these leaking tanks I think this is the fastest thing technologically possible and that is what we should demand,” Inslee said.

Here more of the interview: 

Interview with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at Hanford

One the Web:

Gov. Inslee's statement on Hanford tank waste - Office of the Governor

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.