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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.

Report Calls Hanford Tank Waste Among Top Federal Challenges For 2018 

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Hanford Vit Plant
File photo. Construction of the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant is behind schedule and over budget.

Cleaning up radioactive waste contained in tanks at the Hanford nuclear reservation is one of the top challenges facing the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s according a new special report by the department’s Inspector General.

The independent oversight arm of the U.S. Department of Energy didn’t mince words. ?It says there are about 88 million gallons of radioactive tank waste across the nation that need to be cleaned up. And most is at Hanford. ?

And the report notes that the factory meant to treat all of Hanford’s waste isn’t going so well. It’s behind schedule and will cost billions more than planned. ?

The report also highlights problems that Hanford has had with its subcontractors. Specifically, several companies have agreed to pay a $125 million settlement for using substandard materials.

Hanford’s tank waste and treatment plant were ranked at the top of the Department of Energy’s concerns along with cyber security and safeguarding the nation’s nuclear stockpile.