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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.

Report Finds Hanford Tank Waste Will Take Longer To Treat, And Cost More 

U.S. Department of Energy
File photo. Cleaning up the millions of gallons of radioactive waste at Hanford could cost more and take longer than previously thought.

A new report about the radioactive tank waste at Hanford says the cleanup could take decades longer and cost billions more than estimated. The document, called “System Plan 8”, proposes 11 complex scenarios for how the 56 million gallons of radioactive tank waste could be moved out of those tanks and treated. ?

One scenario suggests bypassing a huge part of the under-construction Waste Treatment Plant. Another scenario includes building new underground tanks to hold the toxic waste. ?

But what stands out is that the baseline case—basically, what the feds are doing now—could cost $62 billion more and take about two decades longer than estimated three years ago.  ?

It’s not for-sure that the baseline case will go forward as the final plan, but every scenario appears to cost more and take longer than expected. ?

All of the plan’s scenarios assume that Hanford cleanup would get more federal money for many years into the future, than it gets now. And it assumes that no major catastrophes or problems will occur—like that train tunnel of radioactive waste that partially collapsed this spring and had to be dealt with or an earthquake. ?

This plan will help inform negotiations between the feds and the state for tank waste treatment deadlines starting just after the new year.

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.