Radioactive waste leaking at Hanford

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The Department of Energy said a tank at Hanford is leaking high-level radioactive waste, but there is no immediate threat to the public.

 

A news release from Gov. Jay Inslee's office said one of the single-shell tanks storing radioactive waste is leaking about 150 to 300 gallons of liquids per year. 


The tank, which was built in the 1940s and stabilized in 1995,  contains about 447,000 gallons of sludge left from plutonium production for nuclear weapons.


According to Inslee, the tank is the first documented to be losing liquids since interim stabilization was completed in 2005. 


There are 177 underground tanks at the Hanford site, 149 of which are single-shell tanks.


"I am alarmed and deeply concerned by this news. This was a problem we thought was under control years ago, when the liquids were pumped from the tanks and the sludge was stabilized. We can’t just leave 149 single-shell tanks with high-level radioactive liquid and sludge siting in the ground for decades after their design life," said Inslee.


Inslee said though there is no immediate risk to the public's health, and the waste may not reach the groundwater for years, the state has a zero-tolerance policy on radioactive leakage.


The tank is one of the farthest from the river, and there is a groundwater treatment system in place that provides a last defense for the river.

 

Inslee said he will meet with Energy Secretary Steven Chu  in Washington, D.C., next week to hear about the progress on stopping the leak and preventing any further tank leaks at Hanford.


A plant under construction to treat the waste is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.