Leak Brings Safety of Hanford Nuclear Site Into Question

Leak Brings Safety of Hanford Nuclear Site Into Question
By Kim Murphy

"As part of the biggest, costliest environmental cleanup in the nation's history-disposing of 53 million gallons of radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state-one thing was supposed to be sure: Toxic waste stored in sturdy, double-wall steel tanks wasn't going anywhere. That reassurance has been thrown into question with the discovery of a three-foot-long mound of radioactive material between the inner and outer steel walls of one of the supposedly safe tanks."


Hanford Double-Shell Tank Leaks Nuclear Waste

"The public interest group Hanford Challenge Friday released disclosed a memo from U.S. Department of Energy inspectors to the Washington State Department of Ecology detailing the leak.

Dated August 14, the memo acknowledges a highly-radioactive chemical waste leak that was detected in early August from Tank AY-102 on the floor of the “annulus,” the space between the two walls of the double-shell tank.

The dry radioactive waste was found in two locations, according to the memo, one of them in a “mound approximately 2 ft. x 3 ft. x 8 inches.”

Environment News Service

Washington State: Possible radioactive leak at Hanford tank farm

"“There’s been this presumption that the double-shell tanks at least are sound and won’t fail, and they’ll be there for us,” said Tom Carpenter of the advocacy group Hanford Challenge. Several days ago the group obtained a memo from the cleanup site detailing discovery of the mysterious substance.

“This changes everything. It is alarming that there is now solid evidence that Hanford double-shell has leaked,” Carpenter said in a separate statement on the discovery."


Possible Radioactive Tank Leak At Hanford Being Investigated

Some are concerned with the longer-term implications. Here’s why: There are a total of 177 waste tanks, some of them are single shelled and some have double-shells. The government has been moving waste out of the known worst of those single-shelled tanks for awhile and into the double-shelled tanks.

Tom Carpenter heads the Seattle-based watchdog Hanford Challenge. He says what if this possible leak shows that the double-shell tanks are more venerable than we thought?

“Then we’re going to have to look for something else to do," he says. "Because frankly we’re out of room in the double-shelled tanks. There is not a whole lot of room left to move waste around.”

Another question: If this tank is proven to be leaking — can the tanks last the nearly five decades it’s going to take to stabilize this radioactive waste in glass?
Listen to the story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=159959785&ft=3&f=159959785

Hanford's storage tank overview:

Routine periodic visual monitoring (via camera) of the AY-102 annulus found material that was never before seen. Photo courtesy of Dept. of Energy

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