Storied Nuke Plant Becomes Environmental Wasteland

A sign warns visitors of searches for prohibited materials as they near the Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington the most contaminated nuclear site in the Western hemisphere, seen here on March 17, 2011. (SHAUN TANDON/AFP/Getty Images)

Associated Press
RICHLAND, Wash. — A stainless steel tank the size of a basketball court lies buried in the sandy soil of southeastern Washington state, an aging remnant of U.S. efforts to win World War II. The tank holds enough radioactive waste to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. And it is leaking.
For 42 years, tank AY-102 has stored some of the deadliest material at one of the most environmentally contaminated places in the country: the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. This complex along the Columbia River holds a storied place in American history. It was here that workers produced the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 – effectively ending the second world war.