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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.

Wyden To Question Energy Nominee Moniz On Hanford

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White House

President Obama’s pick for energy secretary can expect a lot of questions about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation at a confirmation hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden chairs the committee considering physicist Ernest Moniz to head the sprawling federal agency.

As the new energy secretary, Ernest Moniz would be saddled with a lot at Hanford, never mind the rest of the nation. There are leaking tanks of radioactive waste, groundwater contamination and the troubled waste treatment plant meant to bind up 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge in glass.

Senator Wyden says some of these Hanford problems have been the same for 20 years, and the next energy secretary must do a better job.

“It is flatly unacceptable that the Department of Energy has no viable plan for cleaning up hazardous waste on the banks of the Columbia River half a century after the contamination occurred and more than a decade since Dr. Moniz served as undersecretary of energy.”

Wyden plans to ask how the cleanup will happen, how long it will take and what it will cost.

On the Web:

Ernest Moniz profile - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio

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.