Anna King

Richland Correspondent

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, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.

The South Sound was her girlhood backyard and she knows its rocky beaches, mountain trails and cities well. She left the west side to attend Washington State University and spent an additional two years studying language and culture in Italy.

While not on the job, Anna enjoys trail running, clam digging, hiking and wine tasting with friends. She's most at peace on top a Northwest mountain with her husband Andy Plymale and their muddy Aussie-dog Poa.

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RICHLAND, Wash. – For the last year federal nuclear regulators have been in a battle with the U.S. Department of Energy. The debate? Whether the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant is safe enough.

The other big question is whether Hanford workers feel safe to raise concerns without fear of retaliation.

The man at the center of this battle is a well-respected nuclear engineer who used to help manage the design of the waste treatment plant ... that is until he stood up and said there were serious problems there.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The U.S. Department of Energy says it doesn't agree with the finding that the safety culture at Hanford is "flawed." Even so, the department says that it's working to make improvements at the waste treatment plant under construction in southeast Washington.

That's the upshot of a letter released Friday after a federal nuclear watchdog raised questions about Hanford’s massive plant.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The U.S. Department of Energy says it believes its safety culture at Hanford is “strong.” But the agency said in letter Friday it’s also working to make improvements. The letter is a response to criticism from a federal nuclear watchdog that called Energy’s safety culture at Hanford’s waste treatment plant “flawed.”

Anna King / Northwest News Network

QUINCY, Wash. – Located just north of the Gorge in the eastern part of the state, the town of Quincy used to be a stop for trains to get more water. But in the last five years it’s quickly becoming a regional center for the online world. That’s because email messages, family photos and tax info are being stored in huge data centers here.

It’s a new kind of crop for this rural farming community, but some are asking if the bounty will last?

RICHLAND, Wash. – The U.S. Department of Energy is defending its safety culture at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. The agency sent its workers a letter in response to harsh criticism this month in a report by a federal nuclear watchdog.

A high-level whistleblower from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is meeting with members of Congress this week. The topic: the safety culture at Hanford’s $12 billion waste treatment plant. A new report backs up his claim that the Department of Energy and its contractors discourage workers from raising safety concerns.

RICHLAND, Wash. - A federal nuclear watchdog agency is questioning some of the science behind a massive treatment plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. In a letter released Thursday, federal examiners say key treatment tanks could pose risks.

About 50 workers from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation complained about health and safety issues at a meeting in Richland on Tuesday night. The conference was organized by Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group.

Most who attended the meeting complained they aren’t being compensated adequately for their health problems. They also said Hanford contractors and the federal government aren’t keeping workers safe in places like the nuclear waste tank farms.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Northwest winemakers are holding out hope for a good 2011 vintage despite this being the coldest spring they can remember in decades. Growers say they’re plants are about three weeks behind their usual growth for this time of year.

For years top scientists have said a big earthquake near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is highly unlikely in our lifetimes. Now, a new geological study is being published, and what it says is shaking up assumptions.

Benton County Emergency Services Dept.

Some areas of the Northwest remain at risk of flooding. But residents along the Yakima River are cleaning up flood damage as the water recedes.

Anna King / N3

In north central Washington, scientists are trying once again to reintroduce a tiny endangered rabbit species into a big, predator-ridden landscape. Next week, scientists plan to release about 100 young pygmy rabbits, each one the size of a tennis ball.

One of the most difficult challenges at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is moving radioactive waste from point “A” to point “B.” The federal government is spending billions of dollars on a waste treatment plant. Piping that radioactive waste across the desert is sort of like getting ketchup out of a bottle. But it’s a whole lot more complicated and dangerous.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

This week we're taking a look at what police say is a resurgence of gang activity - especially in rural areas. In part three of "Living In Gangland," we profile a mother and daughter and their struggle with gangs.

Across the nation there are an estimated 750,000 gang members. That's according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Some of them are women, but more often, women are impacted as the mothers, sisters and girlfriends of gang memgers. They may not actively choose the gang life, but its perils affect them nonetheless.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

This week we're taking a look at what police say is a resurgence of gang activity - especially in rural areas. In part two of "Living in Gangland," we bring you the story of the unincorporated town of Outlook, in Eastern Washington - and one woman who is fighting to get the town back.

When "Maria" gets off Interstate 82 and heads down the off ramp for Outlook – she starts praying -  that she’ll get home safe today.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The small amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 found in milk in Spokane has been causing ripples of concern throughout the Northwest. Officials say the tiny amounts of radiation found in the milk were probably blown over from Japan’s stricken nuclear plants.

Just outside the Tri-Cities, Drex Gauntt’s alfalfa fields roll out like a plush emerald shag carpet. One of the ways that cows can pass Iodine-131 into their milk is by eating grass or hay that’s been contaminated with the radioactive isotope. Gauntt says he’s not too concerned.


Northwest milk industry leaders are hustling to allay fears about radiation in their products. The Environmental Protection Agency found small amounts of radiation in a milk sample taken from a Spokane-area dairy last week.

The agency has stepped up its monitoring program earthquake and nuclear plant disasters in Japan. Blair Thompson is the spokesman for the Washington Dairy Products Commission. He says Northwest dairies are concerned about the findings, but there is no immediate risk to residents.

Biggunben / Flickr

Some Air Force and Army bases in the Northwest are helping with the Libyan fight. Seven tankers and about 100 airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base are already working in undisclosed locations in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.


One of Washington's oldest and most recognizable wine brands, L’Ecole, is growing up a bit with a new, sleeker label.

L'Ecole is French for "the school" and that's because the winery operates out of a nearly 100-year-old school house. The old label was a child's colorful drawing of the facility. The new label sports a sepia-toned oil painting of the historical school house soon after it was constructed in 1912.

Documents surfacing from an ongoing lawsuit are raising questions about the demotion of a Hanford whistleblower and whether a top manager with the Department of Energy was involved.

Japan's nuclear reactor crisis has sharpened the debate over where the U.S. will store its radioactive waste in the long-term. Tuesday the State of Washington and other plaintiffs will argue in federal court that the Obama administration should not abandon the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

The nuclear reactor crisis in Japan is prompting more scrutiny of the nuclear power plant near Richland in southeast Washington. Thursday a Seattle-based Hanford watchdog sued Energy Northwest. The group is demanding the power supplier turn over more documents on the possibility of the plant using plutonium for reactor fuel.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers will open for barge traffic soon. Locks were closed for several months during repairs.

Wikimedia Commons

The tumultuous political climate in the Middle East is creating volatility in the price of wheat.  Northwest farmers and wheat traders are trying to hedge against the uncertainty.

The federal government mishandled the cleanup of the dangerous Hanford K-Basins near the Columbia River. The mistakes cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Those are some of the conclusions of a federal Inspector General report.

People with a direct stake in the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will be closely following President Obama's budget roll out. Money for cleaning up hazardous waste there is expected to be down.

Crews at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are once again pumping radioactive waste from a World War II era tank. Work had been stopped on the unstable tank buried near the Columbia River.

What do you do when you have a huge dilemma, and the number of people who can solve it is dwindling? That's the problem at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation -- one of the largest environmental cleanup projects in the world.

About 12,000 people are working on it right now. But the vast majority of Hanford's top experts are nearing retirement age. That leaves this complex cleanup task to the next generation.

The stakes are high: one wrong move could mean an environmental disaster, or a contaminated worker.

Supporters of a proposed interpretive center for the Hanford Reach have identified a new location for the star-crossed project. They're hoping the fresh site will breathe new life into a project that's been mired in controversy and divisiveness.

Shelby SuperCars

A company that designs super-fast cars is hoping to build a new factory in the state. Shelby SuperCars is eyeing a site in south-central Washington, in the city of West Richland.

Until recently, Shelby held the record for the making the fastest production car on earth: an average of about 256 miles per hour. Now the company working on their next generation speed demon. Shelby has applied for an $800,000 state loan to buy property and build a new manufacturing facility.