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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.

Federal Agencies To Officially Establish Manhattan Project National Historical Park

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
An aerial view of the Hanford B-Reactor site in June, 1944. An agreement establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be signed in November.

On November 10, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of the Interior will enter into an agreement establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

In many ways this will be a different sort of national park: It will be co-run by the two agencies and span three sites in three states: Hanford in Washington, Oak Ridge in Tennessee and Los Alamos in New Mexico. These are the places that made the two bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.

The agreement will hammer out many of the details of how the park will interpret and preserve history at the sites. Some critics have argued that the Department of Energy shouldn’t be allowed to write its own history for the public.

A National Parks spokesman said the federal government is capable of tackling this complex and controversial history, as it has done at other sensitive sites recording the Civil War and Native American massacres.

The full parks won’t be born right away, but some of the sites including Hanford are already hosting special public tours.

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.