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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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More Hanford problems resolved

Researchers at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site have resolved two more technical problems raised by a panel of experts about a $12 billion waste treatment plant under construction.

The plant is being built to convert highly radioactive and toxic waste into stable, glasslike logs at south-central Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland.

An independent panel of experts raised 28 potential problems for the plant in a 2005 study. With the latest results, all but two have been resolved.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which manages cleanup at the 586-square-mile site, built a $90 million platform to test methods to address some of those concerns – the first time researchers were able to test the processes outside of a laboratory.

“At this point, we know the plant will work, and the remaining technical issues revolve around how efficiently we can make it work … at the best value for the American taxpayer,” said Gary Brunson, project engineering director for the Energy Department’s Office of River Protection.

The federal government spends roughly $2 billion each year cleaning up Hanford.

MISSOULA

Grace jurors hear from ex-resident

Jurors in the W.R. Grace & Co. criminal trial heard testimony from a former Libby resident Friday, despite objections from defense attorneys who said the testimony would be redundant and prejudicial.

Witness Lerah Castleton is the daughter of key government witnesses Lerah and Mel Parker.

Castleton testified that she lived and worked on an old tract of contaminated mining property in Libby and regularly played with her own daughter on the vermiculite-strewn grounds.

The parents previously testified they bought the land from Columbia, Md.-based Grace, converted it into a tree nursery and mushroom farm and hired Castleton to work there.

The Parkers have since developed lung disease from living in the dusty conditions and breathing the harmful asbestos fibers.

WASHINGTON

Feds modernizing volcano monitors

Weeks after Mount Redoubt erupted in Alaska, the Interior Department is spending some of its first stimulus dollars to improve volcano monitoring.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Friday said the department will use $15.2 million to modernize volcano warning systems in one of its first projects to be funded by the stimulus measure. It was part of $140 million in spending announced Friday.

Salazar said the monitoring will do a better job of warning the public and airlines of eruptions, as it did months before Mount Redoubt blew in March. The Alaska Volcano Observatory first started issuing warnings in late January, Salazar said.

“We know that we must warn the public of explosive eruptions. We need to alert aircraft of ash clouds and warn communities of ash falls and lava and mud flows,” Salazar said in a conference call with reporters.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash.

Girl, 14, arrested in death of infant

Federal Way police have arrested a 14-year-old girl and say they will recommend she be charged with second-degree murder in the death of a newborn found in her bedroom.

Police said Friday they also arrested the baby’s father, a 20-year-old Federal Way resident, for investigation of second-degree child rape because of the mother’s age.

The baby girl was found unresponsive Thursday in the teenager’s bedroom at the Club Palisades Apartments and was later declared dead.

Investigators arrested the teen after learning the baby was alive when born. Police spokesman Raymond Bunk would not specify the cause of death, but said that it “was intentional.”

The names of the baby’s parents have not been released.

From wire reports

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