The 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.

Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Kai-Huei Yau

In 1987, late in the Cold War, in a government reading room in Richland , Washington, a historian was studying newly released documents about the Hanford nuclear reservation. Then, a strange man approached her.

Tobin Fricke / Wikimedia

Hanford officials and community boosters In southeast Washington are hosting a celebration Thursday at an historic nuclear reactor. A signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday made the Manhattan Project National Historical Park official.

U.S. Department of Energy

Cleaning up the central part of the Hanford nuclear reservation will take even longer. That’s the bottom line of a series of regional public comment meetings kicking off Wednesday in Richland, Washington.

Kai-Huei Yau

For the fifth time in 15 years, the state of Washington is fighting the federal government in court over Hanford cleanup. The state’s top cleanup watchdog in Richland -- who grew up just downstream from the nuclear site -- plays a major role in that case

Kai-Huei Yau

Geochemist Frannie Smith would like to see more girls get into science like she did. Women make up only about 25 percent of geoscientists in the U.S. and only a quarter of all the scientists or engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington state are female.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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.

U.S. Department of Energy

After more than two decades of fighting in court, the Hanford Downwinders case has ended. The approximately 3,000 Downwinders have all either dropped their claims or arrived at a settlement.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson Wednesday announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy and some of its contractors over worker safety at the Hanford nuclear site.