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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, Energy Department Continue Talks Over Hanford Tank Cleanup

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network

  Washington state and the U.S. Department of Energy just gave themselves a 40-day deadline. They need a clear cleanup plan for leaking tanks of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

If you think you’ve heard that before, it’s because you have.

The deadline follows an earlier 40-day deadline that expired at the beginning of June with no clean up plan in place. State and federal officials hope this second deadline will fare better.

Hanford experts and a gaggle of lawyers from both sides plan to meet privately next week in the Seattle area. It’s about how to clean up 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in aging underground tanks at Hanford.

The State of Washington says it wants the federal government to set and keep its cleanup deadlines, something that’s been lacking so far. The U.S. Department of Energy will only say talks with the state have been productive. Both sides are trying to avoid legal action that could further delay actual cleanup work at Hanford.