Hanford Nuclear Site May Have Sprung New Leak

The Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, widely considered the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, may have sprung another leak. On Friday night, Governor Jay Inslee met with the media to address the reports that more radioactive waste has leaked through a double-shelled underground tank at the troubled Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

KPLU, a Seattle and northwest Washington state news source, reported that the US Department of Energy had discovered higher-than-normal levels of radioactivity beneath the tank. The tank is known to possess a double hull, but it isn’t known at this time whether or not the outer shell was breached.

What’s particularly upsetting is that the double-hulled AY-102 tank is one of 28 installed to replace the leaky single-wall tanks, so that naturally the most radioactive waste has been placed in the double-shelled tanks to provide an extra measure of safety.

Gov. Inslee was not happy about the incident, saying:

“We need to insist — and will insist — that the department accelerate their plan to remediate this waste in that tank and these other leaking tanks. This has to happen even if there wasn’t a leak in that second shell. It’s owed to the citizens of the state of Washington.”

The levels of radioactivity aren’t currently high enough to harm human health. However, the reason for the new leak must be investigated by the US Department of Energy as well as state authorities.

According to a Phys.org report, the Cold War era Hanford nuclear plant shuttered its last reactor in 1987. However, it has repeatedly sprung radioactive leaks over the years — most notably earlier this year when the site reported a total of six.

According to CNN, investigating the new leak is a process that could take a number of days. The source of the radiation will be tracked by taking samples as well as by video inspection of the site.

This video looks back at the February leaks:

Because of the early detection of the higher-than-normal radiation levels, the Columbia River waters are not believed to be at risk from the possible new Hanford nuclear leak.

[image by US Dept. of Energy via Wikimedia]