Radioactive Hanford Waste Tank Has A Confirmed Leak

Oct 23, 2012

Managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have confirmed that a radioactive waste tank has a slow leak. That waste isn’t getting into the environment. Richland Correspondent Anna King reports.

This house-sized vessel is known as AY-102. It’s made of steel and concrete and buried underground to shield workers from high levels of radiation. It’s full of hazardous radioactive sludge left over from plutonium production here.

It was designed to last for about 40 years, and it’s already had its 44th birthday. The tank is leaking into the space between its two hulls in two spots.

But Tom Fletcher, one of the top tank managers at Hanford says, it’s not reaching the soil or groundwater.

“I would say I’d say it’s more like ketchup," he explains. "This is not a water like consistency material. It’s moving very, very slow.”

The double-shell tanks are supposed to hold the waste until Hanford’s troubled waste treatment plant can be built. The Department of Energy is investigating this leaking tank along with six others like it.

Hanford managers and Washington’s Department of Ecology officials will meet this week to decide next steps.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio