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EPA Fines Hanford For Stagnating Radioactive Waste Near Columbia River

U.S. Department of Energy
The K-East and K-West reactors were shut down in 1970 and 1971.

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to fine the U.S. Department of Energy up to $10,000 per week if radioactive waste just a stone's throw from the Columbia River isn’t cleaned up.

Behind the old called the K-West reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is a huge concrete swimming pool-like basin. It was built in the 1950s and meant to last for 20 years. That’s where workers dumped hot irradiated rods until they cooled. Later, they were shuttled off to be further refined into plutonium for bombs.

At the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, thousands of these rods were left behind in the water. The DOE has been trying to clean up this waste for a while, but now the EPA says the department is way behind schedule. 

The EPA says the basin was supposed to be cleaned up back in 2002. The DOE says it hasn’t gotten enough funds from Congress to keep on schedule.

The Department of Energy has about two weeks to start negotiations, or face the weekly fine until cleanup starts.

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.