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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.

Washington House Passes Protections For Sick Hanford Workers

Anna King
Northwest News Network

The Washington state House has voted to give added protections to sick workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

In a 69 to 29 vote Thursday afternoon, the House approved a measure that says if a Hanford worker gets one of several diseases or conditions, it’s presumed to be work-related.

Democrat Gerry Pollet gave the example of Chronic Beryllium Disease.

“A transitory exposure to the beryllium dust can cause a disease that will kill you in 10 or 15 years after horrible debilitation,” he said.

Pollet credited KING TV’s ongoing coverage of sick workers at Hanford for bringing attention to this issue. The bill is designed to make it easier for any Hanford site worker who gets sick to collect workers’ compensation.

The measure now goes to the Washington state Senate.

Workers at Hanford are cleaning up 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge left over from making plutonium during World War II and the Cold War.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."