DOE Now Reports Six Tanks Leaking at Hanford

The number of underground liquid waste tanks with suspected leaks at the Hanford site has grown to six.

A week after announcing the first suspected leak in a single-shell tank since an interim stabilization program in 2005, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that five additional single-shell tanks may be leaking. In a release, Cold War-era waste tanks under construction at Hanford. Source: DOEthe governor said that when the Department of Energy notified him of the first leak, it "did not adequately analyze data it had that would have shown the other tanks that are leaking."

A total of 177 tanks, some dating back to the early 1940s, hold highly radioactive liquid waste from early nuclear weapons programs at the reservation beside the Columbia River. Crews pumped out much of the liquid in the mid-1990s, but thicker sludges remain. The first tank suspected of leaking contains 447,000 gallons of waste that has been dropping at a rate of 150 gallons per year to 300 gallons per year, according to the DOE.

"There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles from the Columbia River," Inslee said. In a statement that alludes to the potential for legal action on behalf of the state, he added that Washington's Ecology Department "is not convinced that current storage is adequate to meet legal and regulatory requirements."

DOE promised to begin additional monitoring of single-wall tanks, Inslee said, and would discuss the possibility of adding new tanks to transfer leaking waste.

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