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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.

Government May Push Cleanup Deadlines On Hanford's Central Plateau

U.S. Department of Energy
An aerial view of the Central Plateau at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Cleaning up the central part of the Hanford nuclear reservation will take even longer. That’s the bottom line of a series of regional public comment meetings kicking off Wednesday in Richland, Washington.

The Central Plateau is where Hanford extracted plutonium from uranium fuel rods with lots of chemicals during World War II and the Cold War.

This new state and federal government schedule tackles complex problems like soil contamination that stretches hundreds of feet down to groundwater, 43-miles of waste-filled trenches, and a contaminated waste dump.

John Price, Washington’s top negotiator on these new deadlines, said federal budgets haven’t kept up with agreed-on deadlines.

“So every year when the funding is less than is needed to do in any one year, than that creates a bow wave of work that gets pushed out into the future,” Price said.

Under the new plan deadlines would be pushed out by up to 10 years.

Public meetings on this cleanup agreement will take place in Seattle, Hood River and Portland later this month.

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.