Underground Tank Leaking Nuclear Waste

Agency says there's no health risk, but watchdog says there are no good radioactive leaks
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2021 4:00 PM CDT
Underground Tank Leaking Nuclear Waste
A sign at the Hanford nuclear site greets visitors in 2014.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

An underground storage tank dating to the Manhattan Project is leaking nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state. About 3½ gallons of radioactive material per day is seeping into the ground, the state Department of Ecology said. That adds to the 200,000 gallons that's leaked from other tanks, CBS reports. "This highlights the critical need for resources to address Hanford's aging tanks, which will continue to fail and leak over time," the agency said. The 123,000-gallon tank B-109 has lost about 1,700 gallons over the past two years, the state estimates. The federal Department of Energy told Hanford employees that the tank had been mostly emptied earlier and that the continuing leak poses "no increased health or safety risk to Hanford workers or the public." The notice added, "Contamination in this area is not a new issue and mitigation actions have been in place for decades."

Hanford used to produce about two-thirds of the plutonium used in US nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped in 1945 on Nagasaki, Japan, that was developed in the Manhattan Project, per the AP. The site was in use through the Cold War, per the Tri-City Herald. Heart of America Northwest, a watchdog, said the radioactive waste being leaked will be dangerous for hundreds to thousands of years. A huge environmental cleanup has been going on at Hanford, the nation's most contaminated nuclear waste site, for decades. "There's no such thing as a small leak from a high-level nuclear waste tank," the watchdog said. The Washington Department of Ecology said the main goal is to keep the waste from getting into Columbia River, which is 10 miles from the tank. (More radioactive waste stories.)

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