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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.

Hanford Tank Farms Get All-Clear After High Radiation Reading

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Anna King
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Northwest News Network

The tank farms at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington have the all-clear for work to resume after a high-radiation incident briefly shut down much of the site last month.

In late August, Hanford workers responded to an emergency of a high-radiation reading near a tank known as C-101.

In a new letter to Hanford workers, Manager for the Office of River Protection Kevin Smith says it turns out there was no leak. He says “pre-existing contamination” on some concrete near the tank “could have been exposed when insulating blankets shifted.” There is a four-inch square of contamination where elevated beta radiation levels were detected, he says.

Smith says a Hanford contractor is preparing to re-start pumping activities. And some pre-pumping work will begin this week.

Washington State Ecology officials say they are encouraged that radioactive waste removals will start up again and that the delays were fairly brief.

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.