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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.

Hanford Advisory Board Cools Heels Waiting For Energy Department

Department of Energy

At the Hanford Site in southeast Washington state, a powerful group of citizens who keep watch on the nuclear reservation hasn’t met in months. Northwest tribes, environmental watchdogs and nuclear cleanup experts all sit on the Hanford Advisory Board—nicknamed the HAB. ?

Board members spend hours pouring over thick reports and carefully considering cleanup and safety plans and looking at budgets. They give their feedback. And the federal government is obliged to respond in writing. It’s the one chance for people closely watching Hanford to have a say in the site’s multi-billion-dollar cleanup. 

But HAB members are worried. The board hasn’t met since early June—and nothing’s been scheduled for October. ?

The problem is half of the board members’ terms need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Energy’s headquarters. That’s stalled out and it’s not clear why. ?

Some board members worry that they’re already missing out on the chance to comment on projects happening now—like the Hanford budget and the grouting of that big tunnel. ?

A Department of Energy spokeswoman said they’re “close” to sorting out the group’s membership, but wouldn’t say specifically when the next meeting will be.

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.