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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.

GAO Report Says Hanford Radioactive Waste Tanks Need New Plan

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
File photo. There are 177 underground radioactive waste tanks at Hanford.

A new report by the federal Government Accountability Office calls for a better plan for leaking tanks of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

There are 177 underground tanks of radioactive sludge at Hanford. They’re the leftovers from plutonium production during World War II and the Cold War. Some of these tanks are leaking hundreds of gallons of the sludge each year.

The Government Accountability Office is worried that the waste has been sitting in these old battle-worn tanks too long. There’s a massive factory under construction to bind all this hazardous waste into more stable glass logs, but it’s been delayed for technical problems.

The accountability office recommends that Hanford managers come up with long-term plans for storing this waste -- like new tanks.