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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.

Dems' Loss of the Senate Could Rattle Budget At Hanford

U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate has flipped to Republican control. Workers and managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are watching to see what the change could mean for cleanup in southeast Washington.

Democrat Patty Murray has chaired the Senate Budget Committee since 2012. And she has a seat on the Appropriations Committee. That means she’s been a powerful voice for cleanup at Hanford.

Now with Republican control of the Senate, Murray loses her chairmanship, and some of her power for advocating for one of the largest cleanup projects on earth.

About $2 billion goes into cleanup here annually. This year Murray helped pull down an additional $140 million.

In the past when Hanford has gotten less money from Congress, cleanup has slowed and hundreds of workers have been laid off.

It’s a one-two-three punch for Hanford. Murray’s Senate colleague Maria Cantwell will lose her chairmanship of a Senate small business committee that’s been important to Hanford. And longtime Republican congressman Doc Hastings will be replaced with a newcomer.

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.