Three Hanford Tanks Could Be Cleaned Out By End Of Summer

Aug 1, 2012

Washington environmental regulators are hoping that crews at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will clean out three more aging tanks of radioactive waste by the end of summer. A federal judge has ordered that ten tanks in an area known as “C-Farm” have to be closed by September of 2014.

Cleaning up mammoth underground tanks of radioactive waste at Hanford is like sucking thick sandy mud through a straw -- sort of like a gunk milkshake.

Crews are blasting the hard-cake waste with liquids to loosen it up. So far, three of those aging vessels are between 80 and 98 percent empty.

Nancy Uziemblo watches over tank cleanup at Hanford for Washington’s Department of Ecology. She says she and the workers cleaning up the tanks have a running joke.

“Well a couple of times a week I walk in and say, ‘Are you done yet?’ And they say, ‘Almost.’ And I come in the next day and say, ‘Are you done yet?’ And they say, ‘Almost.’”

Uziemblo hopes three tanks will be finished by October. So far, Uziemblo says of Hanford’s 149 single-shell waste tanks, just seven have been cleared to Washington state’s standards.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

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