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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.

Report Says It Could Take 6 Years To Start Emptying Leaking Hanford Tank

The federal government says in a new report that it may take six years to start emptying a leaking double-hulled tank of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Washington state law says any leaks must be dealt with as soon as possible – but the federal government’s soon as possible is maybe years away. That’s because it could take 18 months just to get and set up equipment to pump sludge from the leaking double-hulled tank called AY-102. In addition it will take about six years to secure appropriate tank space to put all that sludge.

Ken Niles is in charge of looking over this waste for the State of Oregon. He says these new timelines are troubling. “There doesn’t seem to be a pressing issue that the environment does not seem to be at risk today, but we don't know if that will be the case tomorrow, a month from now or 19 months from now.”

The internal leak from tank AY-102 was first detected late in 2011.

On the Web:

Tank 241 AY-102 Leak Assessment Report - US Dept. of Energy