Hanford Tank With Radioactive Waste Has A Leak, But That’s Not A New Problem

A new sign graces the entrance onto the Hanford site near Richland, Washington. CREDIT: ANNA KING
At Hanford, a hazardous concoction of radioactive waste and chemicals sits in World War II and Cold War-era tanks. Now one of those old tanks has a serious leak. CREDIT: Anna King/N3

READ ON

BY ANNA KING / N3 & NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS / AP

At Hanford, a hazardous concoction of radioactive waste and chemicals sits in World War II and Cold War-era tanks. Now one of those old tanks has a serious leak.

The U.S. Department of Energy which manages Hanford reports that the leak is likely about 3.5 gallons per day. It’s not worse because liquids in the tank were largely pumped out.

It’s the second tank believed to be leaking waste left from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The first was discovered in 2013. Many more of the 149 single-walled storage tanks at the site are suspected of leaking.

Tank B-109, the latest suspected of leaking, holds 123,000 gallons of radioactive waste. The giant tank was constructed during the Manhattan Project and received waste from Hanford operations between 1946 to 1976.

The government has groundwater treatment systems to help protect the Columbia River. Still, it’s worrying, says Jeff Burright, a nuclear waste remediation specialist for Oregon’s Department of Energy.

“There’s an opportunity while the waste is still in the tank that you can actually get it out and get it into a waste form that will stand the test of time,” Burright told the public media Northwest News Network. Once waste gets out of that tank and escapes into the environment you’ve lost that opportunity.”

In the decades since WWII, more than a million gallons of radioactive tank waste have leaked into the soil beneath Hanford.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Related Stories:

The Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington. The site includes 56 million gallons of radioactive waster across 580 square miles.

Aging Tanks, Aging Watchdogs: Lots To Work On For Washington’s New Waste Program Manager

David Bowen has owned his own bar in Cle Elum, been a Kittitas County commissioner and managed groundwater nitrate cleanup in the Yakima Valley. Now, he’ll hold the U.S. Department of Energy accountable for its cleanup at the site using the Tri-Party Agreement. That’s a 1989 document struck between Ecology, the federal Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Continue Reading Aging Tanks, Aging Watchdogs: Lots To Work On For Washington’s New Waste Program Manager