Energy Secretary Nominee No Stranger To Hanford Tank Leaks

Mar 5, 2013

President Obama’s nominee for the next federal Energy Secretary is no stranger to the cleanup work at the Northwest’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Ernest Moniz was Energy undersecretary during the Clinton Administration. Correspondent Anna King reports.

Back in the late 90s Ernest Moniz faced scrutiny about tank leaks at Hanford here in southeast Washington.

The problem -- and question then -- was whether about a million gallons of leaked radioactive tank waste had reached the groundwater and was headed toward the Columbia River. Or if it was staying put in a dry layer of soil, above the groundwater.

Moniz said that yes, radioactive waste was leaking into the groundwater, and no – the Department of Energy hadn’t been looking very hard to see if that was happening. A government report found that Energy officials had known about the possible problem for nearly 10 years. Moniz would face similar questions now as Energy Secretary. Recently, it was announced that six single-hulled tanks may be leaking a couple of gallons of waste a day at the site.

Some experts watching Hanford carefully say that Moinz will bring expertise and champion fundamental science to address the radioactive leaks at Hanford, as he did before. Hanford watchdog Tom Carpenter says he fears Moinz will clamp down even tighter on information coming out of the site from whistleblowers. Washington’s Department of Ecology has said although the tank leaks are very serious, there is no immediate threat to human health.

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