Six underground tanks leaking at US nuclear waste site

Last Updated 04 May 2018, 09:36 IST

Six underground radioactive waste tanks at America's most contaminated nuclear site in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest region are leaking, according to the state governor Jay Inslee.

Inslee made the announcement Friday after a meeting with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu who told him that the US Department of Energy has determined there are six, single-shell tanks leaking radioactive waste at Hanford.

Last week, the governor was told about one of those tanks, according to a statement issued by his office. There are a total of 177 tanks at the  Hanford site, 149 of which are single-shell tanks.

Chu "told me that the Department of Energy has now confirmed there are six tanks leaking radioactive waste at Hanford," Inslee said.

But "there is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles from the Columbia  River," he said.

Calling it "disturbing news for all Washingtonians" Inslee said "This  certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford.

Located in southeastern Washington State, Hanford is a 586-square-mile site created in 1943 as part of America's effort to develop the atomic bomb, called the Manhattan Project.

The complex was decommissioned by 1987, but remains the biggest nuclear waste repository in the US, storing 53 million gallons of radioactive waste, including 30 million gallons in the 149 single-shell tanks, according to the State of Washington Department of Ecology.

Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who toured the site this week said that the conditions there "an unacceptable threat to the Pacific Northwest for everybody".

Before Friday's announcement, scientists with the not-for-profit Hanford Challenge claimed that over one million gallons of radioactive waste has already leaked into the ground at Hanford.

"The T-111 tank is one of the 177 underground nuclear waste tanks containing an estimated 56 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste.

"Sixty-seven Hanford tanks have leaked over one million gallons into the soil, which is right next to the Columbia River," it alleged.

"Hanford is in a tough place. The tanks are failing left and right, and the facility that is supposed to treat this waste, the Waste Treatm

ent Plant, is plagued with mismanagement and technical problems.  It won't be ready anytime soon," said Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge.

He said that the State of Washington should not wait for the US Department of Energy to take months to confirm that the tank waste has contaminated the environment, but instead begin emptying the tank immediately.

(Published 23 February 2013, 15:42 IST)

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