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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.

Investigators Looking Into Abnormal Radiological Reading At Hanford

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network

Crews at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington are investigating increased radiological readings at a tank farm there. It happened Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m. Part of the massive site was shut down. 

Crews were transferring waste at a tank inside what’s known as the C-Farm. That’s about a 9-acre grouping of underground tanks in central Hanford. They hold millions of gallons of radioactive sludge. Operators noticed a big difference in their radiological readings and proceeded to evacuate the entire farm area. Gates were closed to most workers and areas of Hanford were under a “take-cover” status. Special crews surveyed the areas outside of the C-Farm, then got closer to the area where work was being done.

Now, crews have given the all clear for most of the farm, but are working on narrowing down where the high reading came from. Department of Energy spokeswoman Carrie Meyer says federal contractors and employees just had an emergency drill late last week, so they were well prepared. She says, no workers have been contaminated or injured.