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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 Announces Court Action In Hanford Clean-Up Fight

Tobin Fricke
Wikimedia -

The state of Washington is going back to federal court over clean-up at Hanford -- the nation’s largest nuclear waste site.

Governor Jay Inslee announced the latest court action Friday.

The decision to return to court follows months of negotiations that failed to produce a new Hanford clean-up agreement. Governor Inslee said the time has come once again to get the courts involved.

“There have been multiple failures, more than multiple failures of the federal government meeting its legal obligations and its timeline already,” he said. “So we have been involved in a multi-month process to try to reach an agreement with the federal government to actually fulfill its obligations, those have not been successful.”

Inslee said the state will ask a federal court to force the Department of Energy to fulfill its clean-up obligations.

The last time the state of Washington went to court over Hanford was in 2008. That resulted in a 2010 settlement and new clean-up timelines and milestones. Since then milestones have been missed, construction on a multi-billion dollar Waste Treatment Plant has stalled and more buried waste tanks have been found to be leaking.

Late Friday, the U-S Department of Energy issued a statement. It reads in part: “…we are disappointed that the parties could not agree on a reasonable, achievable path forward.” It goes on to say that the Department will continue to work “expeditiously” to treat Hanford tank waste.

Washington’s petition to the court will ask for additional double-shell tanks for temporary storage, new timelines for reducing radioactive waste in single-shell tanks by 50-percent by 2031, and new timelines for completion of the Waste Treatment Plant. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."