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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.

'Stop Work' Declared At Hanford To Check Vehicles For Contamination

U.S. Department of Energy
File photo. Demolition work at Hanford's Plutonium FInishing Plant has been halted since December.

Hanford workers have called a “stop work” at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition site because of worries about radioactive contamination inside government vehicles.

It’s the same site where government contractors have struggled to tame the spread of contamination all winter.

The PFP is where the government turned liquids containing plutonium into hockey-puck-sized solid “buttons” for making bombs during the Cold War. Now the government is trying to tear it down to the slab.

Workers called the ‘stop work’ around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning and crews began checking the interiors of about four-dozen government vehicles. Anyone at the demo site that uses these vehicles isn’t working right now, but office workers are still doing their jobs.

Contractors had cleared these vehicles before, but they surveyed the outsides not the interior. Now, workers want the inside of each vehicle to have a thorough going over. This is all important because waste has continued to spread at this old factory demo site.

So far, several workers, an office building and 36 cars have been found contaminated. About 200 workers have been largely idled since December.

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.