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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 Slaps Fine For Mishandled Waste At Hanford

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network

Over the last several years, Hanford Nuclear Reservation managers have mishandled barrels and boxes of hazardous and radioactive waste in the central part of the site.

Friday, the state of Washington slapped the U.S. Department of Energy with a $15,000 fine.

Washington state’s Department of Ecology is charging Hanford managers a total of $261,000, but suspending most of that as long as the feds adjust their operations.

In late 2011, a leaking box of radioactive waste was found, but Ecology wasn’t informed until months later. And, at another facility, a leaking barrel of chemical and radioactive waste was found, along with a questionable roof at a waste storage facility.

“There were just some really fundamental housekeeping things that were not being done in the way that is approved by the law,” explains Jane Hedges, a state Ecology manager in Richland.

The new agreement calls for the feds and their contractors to notify state regulators of spills immediately and pay more attention to how waste containers and buildings are maintained.