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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.

Inslee Calls Apparent Hanford Tank Leak 'Disturbing News'

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Austin Jenkins
/
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the state has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to radioactive leaks from the Hanford reservation in southeast Washington. The Democrat made his comments Friday in response to news of an apparent leak of high level nuclear waste from an underground tank.

This would be the first leak of its kind since 2005. That’s when the US Department of Energy completed efforts to stabilize dozens of tanks that had released more than a million gallons of waste into the ground.

“One of the reasons this is disturbing news is we were told that this problem was dealt with years ago and was under control," Inslee said. "We cannot leave 149 single shell tanks with high level radioactive liquid and sludge in the ground for decades after their design life.”

Inslee says there is no immediate threat to public health or the Columbia River. But he’s calling on the federal government to fund additional interim storage for Hanford waste while construction continues on a troubled multi-billion dollar waste treatment plant.

On the Web:

Governor Inslee's full statement - Office of the Governor