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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.

Obama's Budget Shifts Cleanup Focus At Hanford

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U.S. Department of Energy
A view inside the space between the two walls of Tank AY-102 at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

President Barack Obama’s budget would spend $2.3 billion on cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 2016.

But it shifts the focus of cleanup. The proposed budget would spend more on cleanup of the tank waste and a massive plant meant to treat that sludge. But the president’s proposed budget would cut about $100 million from the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations office.

That’s the part of Hanford management that deals with treatment of contaminated groundwater and soil along the Columbia River and the highly radioactive sludge-filled K-West Basin.

Washington’s Department of Ecology said this budget is moving more money to fix the leaking tank of waste called AY-102 and finishing the low-level sludge pretreatment plant. Those are projects that have popped up with technical problems and delays in the past few years.