One of the most contaminated waste sites in America is leaking
nuclear waste according to US officials. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation
stores material from the production of atomic weapons, in tanks which
have outlived their 20-year lifespan.
The nuclear leak is the first confirmed case of this type since the
federal government’s introduction of a security program in 2005 to
dispose of content from exposed single-shell tanks.On Friday,
the US Department of Energy announced that one of Hanford ‘s 177
radioactive waste tanks is disposing up to 300 gallons per year. The
leaks have come from Tank T-111, built between 1943 and 1944, now
holding some 447,000 gallons of highly radioactive slurry left from
plutonium production of nuclear arms. “The tank was classified as an assumed leaker in 1979,” said the DOE. “In
February, 1995, interim stabilization was completed for this tank. In
order to achieve interim stabilization, the pumpable liquids were
removed in accordance with agreements with the State of Washington.”The governor of the state was outraged by the announcement.
"I am alarmed about this on many levels," Washington’s governor Jay Inslee said at a news conference. "This
raises concerns, not only about the existing leak … but also concerning
the integrity of the other single shell tanks of this age."Other tanks on the site are now been examined and currently there is “no immediate public health risk,” the governor said.
TRUPACT transport containers sit outside the Waste Receiving and
Processing facility (WARP) on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, near
Richland, Washington (Jeff T. Green / Getty Images / AFP)Established
in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the nuclear race, Hanford
became the site of the first full-scale plutonium reactor in the world.
Atomic material produced there was used in the Nagasaki bomb in 1945.An
estimated 1 million gallons of waste, leaked from the site over 70
years, threatens the local environment of the Columbia River.“We will not tolerate any leaks of this material to the environment,” Inslee said.
US Department of Energy is trying to deal with the problem by
transferring the waste from 149 potentially unsafe single wall tanks to
28 double-wall units, but space is running out. More than 60 of the
tanks are thought to have leaked over time. Erection of an estimated $12
billion plant is running behind schedule and billions of dollars over
budget. The plant is designed to turn radioactive waste into glass logs
through a vitrification process.People on the ground in Hanford constantly bring up the safety issues,
"We're out of time, obviously. These tanks are starting to fail now," said Tom Carpenter of the Hanford watchdog group Hanford Challenge. "We've got a problem. This is big."
drums containing transuranic (TRU) waste are prepared for shipment at
the Waste Receiving and Processing facility (WARP) on the Hanford
Nuclear Reservation, near Richland, Washington (Jeff T. Green / Getty
Images / AFP)Washington State has signed an agreement
with the first Bush Administration under which the federal government
commits to clean up its radioactive mess. Inslee said that federal
government needs to come up with funding to deal with the leaking tank.But
planned sequestration in two weeks’ time might cut spending in all
federal agencies, unless stopped by the Congress, Inslee noted, which
could result in layoffs at Hanford, and “could conceivably stop the remediation effort at some of these tanks.”The
combination of the deteriorating state of the storage units and
sequestration are a recipe for “perfect a radioactive storm,” said
Inslee.According to the Seattle Times, around 10 percent of the 586-square-mile facility is contaminated.
including tritium, chromium nitrate and strontium-90 have penetrated
the river, according to the state Department of Ecology. But no unsafe
levels have been found in farm crops in the region according to the
In: Regional News, Science and Technology
Tags: washington, nuclear, waste, leaking
Location: Washington, District of Columbia, United States (load item map)
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