Anna King | KUOW News and Information

Anna King

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, Triââ

Managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation say crews have cleaned up 15 million tons of radioactive soil and debris from near the Columbia River. It’s gone to a massive dump at the center of the site.

In central Hanford, a ceremonial load of soil marked 15 million tons of waste disposed of at the 52-football-field-sized dump called ERDF. Dozens of truck horns blared in response.

Northwest Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation stretches across 1.5 million acres. But it turns out that isn’t enough room for the free-roaming bison herd that tribes are attempting to establish. Northwest Native Americans are hoping restored buffalo herds may reopen ancient trade and cultural traditions.

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay $136,000 in fines for allegedly mishandling waste left over from plutonium production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The penalty comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Energy doesn’t agree with EPA's findings.

The Northwest is well positioned to make wine into the future despite global climate change. So says a scientist who presented his findings on climate change and wine at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. Monday.

Wine grape vines can be productive for decades. But how will climate change affect that? That’s the question Antonio Busalacchi, with the University of Maryland, sought to answer.

Ernest Moniz, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy visits Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington on Wednesday. Among the issues he will have to deal with are the leaking underground tanks of radioactive waste and the troubled waste treatment plant.

From his resume, it appears Moniz isn’t short on brainpower. He’s been on the faculty of MIT since 1973. Secretary Moniz received a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

The federal government says in a new report that it may take six years to start emptying a leaking double-hulled tank of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Washington state law says any leaks must be dealt with as soon as possible – but the federal government’s soon as possible is maybe years away. That’s because it could take 18 months just to get and set up equipment to pump sludge from the leaking double-hulled tank called AY-102. In addition it will take about six years to secure appropriate tank space to put all that sludge.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state attorney general say they’re quote ‘extremely disappointed’ that the U.S. Department of Energy may miss several key deadlines for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The two milestones that may be missed are: completing waste retrieval from two of Hanford’s aging single-shell tanks and finishing up construction on the Low Activity Waste Facility, one of the key parts of Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant.

There’s been a lot of speculation but few answers so far about how genetically modified wheat ended up in an Oregon field. Northwest farmers and seed purveyors say they go to great lengths to keep each variety of grain distinct, tracked and pure. And yet they concede, mistakes can still happen.

"A random isolated occurrence"

We’re in downtown Connell – prime Columbia Basin wheat country. Dana Herron is a seed salesman and as we talk I notice he’s a really clean guy. He carefully folds his paper napkin, and later he dons gloves to pump gas.

Workers are back on the job at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant. Work stopped this week when radioactive soil was found under the nests of some swallows.

Swallows used some radioactive mud to make nests on exposed beamwork in Hanford’s waste treatment plant. That’s the $12 billion factory designed to bind-up radioactive sludge in glass logs. The nests were found during routine tests, but this is the first radioactive contamination of the new plant.

An ankle-high plant with a funny name is stirring up controversy in southeast Washington. The federal government is considering whether to list a yellow-flowering plant known as the White Bluffs Bladderpod as a threatened species. Landowners worry the listing could curtail farming.

I’m out on the edge of a ridiculously steep precipice on the Hanford Reach National Monument – it’s a swath of protected federal ground. This spot overlooks old nuclear reactors just across the brimming Columbia River.

The federal government has pushed back the possible threatened listing of two rare plants that could affect farmers in southeast Washington. Umtanum desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs bladderpod have become very controversial, because part of the plants’ habitat spans valuable crop ground.

It’s a big topic of conversation at the Country Mercantile restaurant where many Franklin County farmers lunch. Ami MacHugh is an area cherry and horse farmer whose land could be affected by the possible federal protections.

The people overseeing the cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster are learning some valuable lessons from the long-running cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. A Japanese government delegation recently toured some of the southeast Washington site.

In Japan, workers in gloves and masks are grinding down sidewalks and roads, wiping down rooftops and bagging contaminated soil. Now, the problem is where to put all that radioactive waste from Fukushima.

There’s a new development in the case of a Richland, Wash. florist who refused to sell flowers for a same sex couple’s wedding. The business owner’s lawyers announced a counter suit Thursday saying the florist “will not wilt.”

The owner of Arlene’s Flowers argues there are plenty of other shops in the Tri-Cities that could cater to a gay or lesbian wedding. But lawyers for Barronelle Stutzman say she’s refusing that business because of her religious beliefs.

Federal regulators say the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant is now back on course after an 11-year safety miscalculation. The new designation means the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington gets a more relaxed inspection and oversight status.

Between 2000 and 2011, workers at the nuclear plant used faulty estimates for how much radiation could escape during a crisis. That mistake and others were found in an inspection just last year.

Cleanup of a hazardous chemical called hexavalent chromium in the groundwater at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington is going faster than expected.

Hexavalent chromium is the nasty stuff that made Erin Brockovich famous down in California. The chemical was used to inhibit rust in coolant water in Hanford’s reactors. But that water was dumped into the desert, and now the cancer-causer is making its way toward the Columbia River in large groundwater plumes.

Several forest fires are already burning in Western Washington and crews are mopping up a big one in central Oregon. There were also two grass fires that burned near Middleton, Idaho just west of Boise, this past weekend.

Dry winds and above average temperatures predicted this summer and fall, have fire managers preparing for an earlier than usual season.

Business is bustling at the Richland florist who faces a lawsuit over same-sex marriage. The shop's owner says she was standing up for her Christian values when she refused to sell flowers for a gay couple’s wedding. Now, the case has become a focal point of intense debate on social media across the globe.

On Arlene’s Flower’s Facebook page, right alongside advertisements for corsages and boutonnieres, there are hundreds of posts for and against same-sex marriage. Now there’s even a Boycott Arlene’s Flowers Facebook page. It has more than 500 likes.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A tank full of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington may be leaking. Friday the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors say liquid levels in an underground radioactive waste tank are going down.

The single-hulled tank is called T-111. It’s located in central Hanford in a group of tanks called T-farm. The Department of Energy reports the rate of loss is about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid a year.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Workers the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are readying pumping equipment at a slow-leaking radioactive waste tank in case the leak gets worse. A newly released report details why the tank became unstable.

Hanford officials say so far they’ve found no waste leaking into the environment from the tank called AY-102.

The new report says many of the tanks original welds from 40 years ago didn’t meet standards and had to be fixed before it was filled. Later, super-hot waste was added that was likely corrosive to the tank’s metal walls.

For nearly a decade, scientists and Northwest tribes in Washington state fought bitterly over whether to bury or study the 9,500-year-old bones known as Kennewick Man. Scientists won the battle, and now, after years of careful examination, they're releasing some of their findings.

For starters, Kennewick Man was buff. I mean, really beefcake. So says Doug Owsley, head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and the man who led the study of the ancient remains.

In western Michigan, there aren't enough apples to pick because bad weather decimated 85 to 90 percent of the crop. But Washington state has the opposite problem — there's an abundance of apples, but not enough pickers.

This should be the happiest, busiest time of year in Washington apple orchards. But now — just as the peak of apple harvest is coming on — Broetje Orchards manager Roger Bairstow is wincing.

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