Doubts, Costs Dog Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Plan The U.S. government has spent billions of dollars cleaning up highly toxic plutonium waste in Hanford, Wash., where much of the fuel for the nation's nuclear weapons was produced. Over budget and behind schedule, the project has ground to a halt. Some worry the government will give up on cleaning up the site completely.
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Doubts, Costs Dog Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Plan

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Doubts, Costs Dog Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Plan

Doubts, Costs Dog Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Plan

Doubts, Costs Dog Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Plan

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4787550/4787670" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Visible in the distance are the aging reactors and processing plants in which the U.S. manufactured the guts for thousands of nuclear weapons. Production stopped in the 1980s. Now the Hanford reservation's 10,000 workers are focused on cleaning it up. Martin Kaste, NPR hide caption

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Martin Kaste, NPR

The plan at Hanford is to mix radioactive waste sludge with glass to stabilize it, then use steel canisters like this one for long-term storage. Martin Kaste, NPR hide caption

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Martin Kaste, NPR

Part 1 of This Report

The U.S. government has spent billions of dollars cleaning up highly toxic plutonium waste in Hanford, Wash., where much of the fuel for the nation's nuclear weapons was produced throughout the Cold War.

Production stopped in the 1980s, but millions of gallons of radioactive waste remain in underground tanks — though some of it has already leaked into the soil.

The centerpiece of the $5.7-billion cleanup project relies on vitrification — binding the radioactive waste with glass to create solid waste that won't leach into the ground.

But the project — massively over budget and behind schedule — has ground to a halt. Some worry that the Department of Energy will give up on cleaning up the site completely.