Apparent Hanford Leak Raises New Questions About Buried Tanks

Feb 15, 2013

There are renewed concerns about the condition of buried waste tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. The U.S. Department of Energy says one of those mammoth World War II era containers – thought to have been stabilized - is losing highly radioactive waste at a rate of 150 to 300 gallons a year.

Hanford's 200 single-shell underground waste storage tanks were built in the 1940s.
Credit Department of Energy

Keith Phillips is energy policy advisor to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He says the question now is whether other tanks are also possibly leaking.

"This one was stabilized in 1995 when all the liquids were pumped out under an agreement with the state. So this is really the first single shell tank leak since all of the single shell tanks were stabilized: 200 gallons a year time 149 question marks is really the question," Phillips says.

That’s how many single shell waste tanks are buried at Hanford. Those tanks were pumped after it was discovered that more than a million gallons of waste had leaked. But radioactive sludge remains behind. Governor Inslee says it’s time for the federal government to build more interim storage while construction continues on a long-delayed waste treatment plant at Hanford.

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