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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.

Washington State Tells Feds Hanford Cleanup Must Go Faster

Anna King
Northwest News Network
File photo. Construction of Hanford's waste treatment plant is way behind schedule.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson complained Monday that the federal government will likely miss major deadlines for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

They want the feds to stick to agreed upon deadlines and are demanding new tanks to replace the leaking old ones. But the feds say they too have a plan.

Hanford has two big problems. First, the old temporary underground tanks that were built to hold the radioactive waste are leaking. Second, the construction of a massive factory that is supposed to take all that goo and treat it is way behind schedule.

The state wants the feds to build new tanks and State Attorney General Ferguson, says his agency is ready to ramp up the legal pressure to make that happen.

“We’re at the beginning stages of utilizing those legal tools," he says. "There is a long process ahead of us … we want this to be worked out if we can with an agreement with the federal government.”

The Department of Energy is responding with its own plan. Instead of new tanks, it’s proposing another factory. This new, smaller addition would pre-treat the liquid waste and would be easier to get up and running.

The state’s response to the feds: the new plan is short on details and enforceable deadlines.


The Northwest News Network's Austin Jenkins contributed to this report.

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.