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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.

Washington State University Leads New Hanford Oral History Project

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US Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – A coalition of groups from southeast Washington is collecting oral histories about the the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and communities around it -- from pioneer days to post-war-cleanup. An announcement was made Tuesday by Washington State University Tri-Cities and 10 other community groups.

The project team intends to collect new interviews, digitize existing ones and make them available online and at the university in a permanent collection.

Robert Bauman, a history professor at WSU, is leading the project. He says some oral histories are decades old and exist only on cassette tapes.

“I’ve seen them in like shoe boxes," Bauman says. "There is probably great information on there but they’re completely unusable.”

Bauman says the collection will be available to scholars and local students alike -- anyone who wants to learn about Hanford.

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People with stories about Hanford or the surrounding areas are encouraged to contact the project via email at ourhanfordhistory@tricity.wsu.edu or by phone at 509-372-7306.

On the Web:

Hanford History Partnership - Washington State University Tri-Cities