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Toxic waste dump mess spills into Washington

The government’s multi-billion-dollar effort to clean up the nation’s largest nuclear dump has become its own dysfunctional mess.

For more than two decades, the government has worked to dispose of 56 million gallons of nuclear and chemical waste in underground, leak-prone tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State.

But progress has been slow, the project’s budget is rising by billions of dollars, and a long-running technical dispute has sown ill will between the project’s senior engineering staff, the Energy Department, and its lead contractors.

The waste is a legacy of the Cold War, when the site housed nuclear reactors churning out radioactive plutonium for thousands of atomic bombs. To clean up the mess, the Department of Energy (DOE) started building a factory 12 years ago to encase the nuclear leftovers in stable glass for long-term storage.

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