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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.

Radon Gas Forces More Than 100 Hanford Workers To Move

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Hanford Plateau
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The demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant at Hanford is now about a yearpast its deadline.

The discovery of an "overwhelming presence" of radon gas has forced more than 100 workers at the Hanford Site to move their offices Thursday. This follows a series of radioactive contamination issues at that same demolition project on the southeast Washington nuclear site.

This winter hasn’t been the best for workers demolishing the Plutonium Finishing Plant. Work ground to a halt after several radioactive contamination incidents. Even some personal vehicles were found to have radioactive waste on them and had to be cleaned up. ?

Now the project is about a year past its deadline to be completely torn down. And these workers are having to squish into other offices and are scattered around the nuclear site. ?

The radon at Hanford is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas—the same that creeps into basements. Hanford spokespeople said it was probably always around the demo site, but now that there’s such intensive monitoring, they’re finding it more. ??

Hanford officials said this latest move is a “significant sacrifice” for workers who have to pack in with other workers from different projects nearby offices. Workgroups remain together, but teams might be a mile or two apart on the site now.