Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
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.

EPA Fines Hanford For Improperly Handling Radioactive Waste

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay $136,000 in fines for allegedly mishandling waste left over from plutonium production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The penalty comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Energy doesn’t agree with EPA's findings.

Energy contractors allegedly stored some radioactive waste without the proper permit, and placed some of it in a landfill before treating it. That permit is under dispute. The waste involved includes contaminated science glove boxes, lab equipment and concrete. Environmental regulators studied records from the late 1980's through 2011 in this investigation. The EPA’s Adam Baron says the fine is relatively small, because the Department of Energy has already agreed to fix these specific problems.

“So every dollar that comes out in penalty payments means some lessened amount of cleanup. And it’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure that that cleanup happens extensively and as quickly as possible,” Baron says.

Cameron Hardy, a DOE spokesman, says the department is pleased to be moving forward with cleanup rather than going through an expensive, drawn-out legal battle.

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.