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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.

Inslee: Hanford Tank Waste Removal Will Take Years

RICHLAND, Wash. – It may take two to four years to even begin clearing radioactive waste from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. That’s according to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He toured the southeast Washington nuclear site Wednesday.

Governor Inslee strode around the Hanford site in smooth chestnut-leather cowboy boots. He was tailed by an entourage of two bus-loads of government officials and reporters. Inslee briskly walked between mammoth buildings at Hanford’s waste treatment plant and then drove by some of the six leaking underground waste tanks.

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," the governor said. "In regard to these leaking tanks I think this is the fastest thing technologically possible and that is what we should demand.”

Inslee says the plan to empty the tanks will likely take years. Meanwhile, the Department of Energy announced its preferred resting place for a small portion of that radioactive tank waste is a federal storage site in the New Mexico desert.

On the Web:

http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/northwestnews/files/201303/030613AK_InsleeQ%26A_0.mp3

Q&A with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at Hanford