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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.

Sen. Wyden: Hanford Tanks Like 'Groundhog Day,' Problems Keep Repeating

Tobin Fricke
Wikimedia -

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is saying cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is like something out of the movie "Groundhog Day."

In a boathouse on the Columbia River in Portland, Ore., Saturday, he said the problems at the nuclear site repeat over and over. Senator Wyden says key documents at Hanford were kept from him, the State of Washington and the public.

“We were told in 2012 that this double-shelled tank … was an isolated issue," said Wyden. "Now we have obtained documents indicating some very serious questions about whether that was actually the case.”

That report reveals construction problems with the leaky double-hulled tank at the southeast Washington site are likely repeated in six other double-shelled tanks as well. He says this key information was kept out of recent cleanup negotiations and the Department of Energy hasn’t been straight with the people of the Northwest.

Wyden says he wants U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to report back in 45 days with possible solutions to the aging tanks.

Tom Fletcher is a top federal manager on the tanks at Hanford. He says the Energy department creates dozens of reports, and he’s not sure why the state and others didn’t see it before.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is where the government produced plutonium for World War II and the Cold War. There are 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in aging underground tanks there.

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.