Hanford Advisory Board Recommends New Waste Tanks For Hanford’s Leak Situation

Nov 2, 2012

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation needs new storage tanks for radioactive waste, now that one of the aging double-hulled tanks has been found to be leaking. That was the consensus Friday of a board that advises federal Hanford managers.

The view inside the space between the leaking tank's two walls at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Credit U.S. Department of Energy

Building new tanks at Hanford would be a major policy shift. The last time the idea was on the table was the late '90s. Federal experts warn that it might take seven years if they started now to build new tanks for Hanford’s waste.

But now, there’s this leaking double-hulled tank of waste called AY-102, and other tanks like it are also suspect.

Dirk Dunning is a chemical engineer with the state of Oregon. He says if the Department of Energy were to build new tanks, they would be stronger than the one that’s leaking now.

“There’s a lot that we’ve learned about how the waste and the steel interact. And that helps them to design it correctly for the future.”

Still, Dunning and many others worry that building new tanks would take the focus off the treatment plant that would bind up the waste into more stable glass logs.

Hanford has about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste sitting in more than a hundred aging underground tanks from WWII and the Cold War.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

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