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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.

Eleventh Tank Of Radioactive Waste Cleared Out At Hanford

Washington River Protection Solutions
A small-bulldozer type robot named the foldtrack was used to help clean out tank C-110 at Hanford.

A federal contractor says it’s finished pumping out the radioactive waste from one of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s single-hulled underground tanks.

The federal government says that’s the eleventh tank cleared out so far.

Contractors used a small robot that is somewhat like a remote-control bulldozer. It has hoses and water jets, that pushes and sprays and blasts the waste around in the tank to scrape it toward the suction point in the tank. That helps them get the waste because some of this waste is like hard salt cake, and it’s really difficult to remove.

The cleared-out waste went to another underground tank that has two hulls. Last fall, Hanford officials discovered one of those tanks has an internal leak.

In all, there are 177 tanks and 56 million-gallons of radioactive waste at Hanford.

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Emptying old tanks - Washington River Protection Solutions 

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.