With the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex fresh in their minds, about 100 people filled a hotel ballroom last night to question a small group of engineers and government officials in charge of cleaning up the Hanford nuclear reservation.

"State of the Hanford Site" meetings like last night's at the Red Lion Hotel in North Portland are held once a year by the three government agencies in charge of the Hanford cleanup in eastern Washington. Anti-nuclear and environmental activists fear that Hanford, now closed to new nuclear waste, could once again become a dumping ground. And they raised concerns at the prospect of Hanford's operating nuclear power plant—the Columbia Generating Station—perhaps, like reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi, start using a fuel containing plutonium to power its reactors.

The plutonium-containing fuel, known as MOX, or mixed oxide fuel, is about 95 percent uranium and 5 percent plutonium. MOX is currently being looked at as a potential fuel source by the nuclear power industry. But activist groups, like the Seattle-based nonprofit Heart of America Northwest, say MOX is potentially more dangerous than conventional uranium fuel.