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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.

Increased Leakage From Huge Tank of Radioactive Waste At Hanford Sets Off Alarms

Tobin Fricke
Wikimedia -

An apparent surge in leakage from a huge tank of radioactive waste set off alarms at the Hanford nuclear site in south-central Washington. This involves an aging, double-shelled tank that contractors were slowly pumping out.

On Sunday, instruments detected a sharp rise of toxic brew in the space between the inner and outer tank walls. The Washington Department of Ecology said in a statement Monday that it has no indication radioactive waste is leaking into the environment or poses a threat to public health.

Still, Governor Jay Inslee said it's obviously unwelcome news.

"We don't want to see any leaking through any of these skins. That's why we have been insistent on the federal government accelerating this cleanup,” Inslee said. “As you know, with the aid of the (state) attorney general we are holding the federal government's feet to the fire to insist that they meet these timelines."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the tank pumping work is currently on hold while engineers evaluate the situation and prepare a plan to drain the sludge that leaked between the two walls of the tank, formally known as AY-102.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.