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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.

Washington State Claims Part Of Hanford Treatment Plant Behind Schedule

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network

Washington state officials say that a court-ordered construction deadline has been missed on part of the Hanford’s radioactive waste treatment plant.

The federal government disagrees.

The Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford has had its share of construction and technical trouble. The federal plant should be completed by 2019, and will treat 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge. Currently, that gunk is stewing away in aging underground tanks near the Columbia River. Some of those tanks are believed to be leaking.

The new treatment plant will have a scientific lab facility to test the waste. According to the court order, that lab was supposed to be mostly complete last year. But the state says the integrity of some waste holding tanks in the lab are in question.

The U.S. Department of Energy counters that the work completed so far meets the deadline, and the tanks will be fully compliant by this December.