Hanford Nuclear Reservation
I met with Secretary Chu in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, and he told me that the Department of Energy has now confirmed there are six tanks leaking radioactive waste at Hanford.”There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles from the Columbia River.
“But nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians. One week ago, Secretary Chu told me there was one tank leaking. But he told me today that his department did not adequately analyze data it had that would have shown the other tanks that are leaking.
“This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford.
“I believe we need a new system for removing waste from these aging tanks, and was heartened to hear that the Department of Energy is looking at options for accelerating that process.
“Secretary Chu has a long-standing personal commitment to the clean-up of Hanford. He has assured me he will do all he can to address the issue of the leaking tanks. He also assured me there will be immediate additional monitoring of the single-wall tanks.
“The secretary and I agree that the state of Washington and the federal government must have a thorough and candid discussion about the need for additional storage tanks.
“Frankly, the state Department of Ecology is not convinced that current storage is adequate to meet legal and regulatory requirements.
“With potential sequestration and federal budget cuts looming, we need to be sure the federal government maintains its commitment and legal obligation to the cleanup of Hanford. To see Hanford workers furloughed at the exact moment we have additional leakers out there is completely unacceptable.”
On the heels of last week’s announcement that one of Hanford’s single-shell underground tanks is leaking upwards of 300 gallons of radioactive waste into the ground every year, Governor Inslee announced today that six single-shell tanks are leaking. “It is shocking and unacceptable,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “These high-level nuclear waste leaks are another blow to the public’s confidence in Hanford cleanup. We need Congressional oversight and immediate answers.”
Secretary Chu told Governor Inslee that six single-shell tanks are leaking radioactive waste into the ground at Hanford. This announcement is a stark reminder of the imminent danger Hanford poses to the public and the Columbia River. This news came less than four months after the Department of Energy learned that, for the first time, a double-shell tank leaked radioactive and chemical waste into the annulus space, the 30-inch space between the inner and outer tank. On top of the existing contamination at Hanford, the public cannot afford delay in responding to tanks leaking radioactive waste. Action is now needed on Capitol Hill.
News that a storage tank at a shuttered federal nuclear facility in Washington state is leaking radioactive sludge has raised fears that the toxic stew could reach the Columbia River as a U.S. cleanup effort drags on.
“The great concern is these tanks have the most dangerous waste of all,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmental group based in Hood River, Oregon. “They were constantly reassuring us that there is no leaking. This announcement is alarming.”
The Energy Department announced last week that as much as 300 gallons of radioactive sludge a year was leaking from a storage tank that is more than six decades old.
The Hanford Nuclear Waste facility was reported to be leaking in 2012
The facility is still leaking
The leaky tank is one of 177 stored underground that collectively hold about 56 million gallons of waste, enough to fill a football field to a depth of 150 feet, according to the Government Accountability Office. The GAO, Congress’s investigative arm, issued a December report warning of more delays and cost increases in the project to develop a waste reprocessing facility on site.
The tanks lie as close as seven miles from the river, according to the Oregon Department of Energy. It would take years and even decades for groundwater to reach the river from the area where the tanks are located, the department said.
The U.S. Energy Department has said radiation levels in the soil at Hanford haven’t gone up since a decline in liquid levels within the tank was discovered.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement last week that the leak posed no immediate health risks. Still, he said the leaking of the hazardous sludge left him “deeply concerned.”
Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, toured the site yesterday. “This should represent an unacceptable threat to the Pacific Northwest for everybody,” Wyden said after touring the facility, according to the Associated Press.
The leak raises concerns that other single-shell storage tanks built in the 1940s will leak, VandenHeuvel said in an interview.
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