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Hanford Leak: Radioactive Waste Tank Has Problematic Crack

Image: Hanford Leak: Radioactive Waste Tank Has Problematic Crack
Six TRUPACT transport containers sit outside the Waste Receiving and Processing facility (WARP) on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation June 30, 2005 near Richland, Washington. Each container holds 14 55-gallon drums of transuranic (TRU) waste that has been processed and will be sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. (Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 21 Apr 2016 12:38 PM

A leak at the Hanford radioactive waste facility in Washington state triggered an alarm over the weekend when the amount of nuclear waste pouring from an underground tank increased.

The waste hasn’t escaped into the environment, The Seattle Times reported, but a leak between the layers of the double-walled container rose by eight inches on Sunday before falling by a half inch.

“We’re continuing our checks of the tank to determine whether any material might be escaping from the tank itself,” Jerry Holloway of Washington River Protection Solutions, which manages the underground tanks for the U.S. Department of Energy, told the Times.

The Hanford site in south-central Washington previously made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades.

The double-walled tank, named AY-102, is the oldest at the site, and waste began leaking between the walls in recent years. Less than 100 gallons of waste was estimated to have leaked, and workers have removed 750,000 gallons from the tank since March, the Times said.

While government officials called the leak “anticipated,” a former worker called it “catastrophic,” KING 5 reported.

“This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors [to hold waste safely from people and the environment],” former Hanford worker Mike Geffre said, according to the station.

Geffre discovered the leak in 2011, noting that the leak was very slow, drying almost immediately before work began to empty the one million-gallon tank. The work to pump waste from the tank may have worsened the leak, however.

“I wish they would have listened to me and reacted faster,” Geffre said. “Maybe none of this would be happening now. It’s an example of a culture at Hanford of ‘We don’t have problems here. We’re doing just fine.’ Which is a total lie.”

Cleanup of the Hanford site, which held two-thirds of all high-level radioactive waste in America in 2007, began in 1989, according to The Daily Mail. At the time, it held 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste and 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste.

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A leak at the Hanford radioactive waste facility in Washington state triggered an alarm over the weekend when the amount of nuclear waste pouring from an underground tank increased.
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Thursday, 21 Apr 2016 12:38 PM
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