Hanford Tank May Be Leaking Toxic Waste Into Soil

The Hanford nuclear site in Washington state may now be leaking toxic waste into the area’s soil.

The U.S. Energy Department said workers at Washington state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation detected higher radioactivity levels under tank AY-102 during a routine inspection Thursday according to NBC News.

State and federal officials have been saying that leaking tanks at Hanford do not pose an immediate threat to the public health or environment’s health, but spokeswoman Lori Gamache said:

“The department has notified Washington officials and is investigating the leak further. An engineering analysis team will conduct additional sampling and video inspection to determine the source of the contamination,” according to NBC News.

The radioactive waste tank has a 20-year life span, but it has been put in use for much longer than that. The tanks at Hanford hold millions of gallons of highly radioactive stew from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

“If this dangerous waste escapes the tank into the soil, it raises concerns about it traveling to the groundwater and someday potentially reaching the river.”

According to NBC News, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that “the situation must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”

Inslee continued on to say,

“Our state experts confirm that there is no immediate public health threat. Given the relatively early detection of this potential leak, the river is not at immediate risk of contamination should it be determined that a leak has occurred outside the tank.”

NBC News reported:


“AY-102 is one of Hanford’s 28 tanks with two walls, which were installed years ago when single-shell tanks began leaking. Some of the worst liquid in those tanks was pumped into the sturdier double-shell tanks.

“The tanks are now beyond their intended life span. The Energy Department announced last year that AY-102 was leaking between its two walls, but it said then that no waste had escaped.

“Two radionuclides comprise much of the radioactivity in Hanford’s tanks: cesium-137 and strontium-90. Both take hundreds of years to decay, and exposure to either would increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.”

According to NBC News, Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Seattle-based advocacy group Hanford Challenge, said, “this is really, really bad. They are going to pollute the ground and the groundwater with some of the nastiest stuff, and they don’t have a solution for it.”

[Image by ENERGY.GOV via Wikimedia]