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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.

Hanford's Contaminated Tunnel Nearly Half Full Of Grout 

At the Hanford Site, the job to seal in a tunnel full of radioactive waste is nearly half done according to the federal government. It became a high-priority project when the tunnel partially collapsed this past May, causing an emergency at Hanford.

Workers are doing the job at night so that hundreds of trucks carrying fresh grout can travel without traffic.

But this big job has had some hitches. When workers started pouring the grout earlier this month, some more of the roof of the tunnel collapsed around where they were injecting it. That’s a concern because the tunnel is highly contaminated and officials don’t want any radioactive particles dusting up.

Filling up the tunnel with grout has been criticized by some who question how the government will ever further clean up the tunnel.

The tunnel holds very-large worn-out equipment leftover from processing plutonium for bomb making during World War II and the Cold War.