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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 Steps Up To Sue Over Hanford Tank Farm Vapors

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Anna King
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Northwest News Network
Washington state intends to sue the federal government if Hanford workers are not better protected at the tank farms on the site.

Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington have been complaining of vapors from radioactive sludge for decades.

They say the fumes give them sore throats, headaches and dizziness. Now Washington state says it intends to sue the U.S. Department of Energy in 90 days if more isn’t done to protect these workers.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the state has been working with the Energy department and its contractors for decades to better protect workers at the tank farms. The farms hold 56 million gallons of radioactive waste from making plutonium during WWII and the Cold War.

The state’s decision to possibly sue follows an independent report on the tank vapors from last month. It says there is a link between these vapors and worker health. Ferguson said he’s looking for an agreement with the federal government that would be enforceable by the court.