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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.

Hundreds Of Expected Layoffs At Hanford Canceled

U.S. Department of Energy
File photo of a crew working on a waste tank at Hanford in 2010.

About 300 people will keep their jobs at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington.

Layoffs announced last year have largely not happened because Congress approved the federal budget for 2014 last week.

About 160 workers have voluntarily left their jobs at Hanford since late last year. The downsizing was prompted by uncertainty about Congressional budget writing. The continuing budget resolution approved by Congress solidifies money for the nuclear site this year.

Many of the 300 workers facing job insecurity are from a company that cleans up radioactive sludge in aging underground tanks. That project has many pressing legal deadlines, so keeping workers busy there comes as welcome news to Hanford watchdogs.

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.