One of the most contaminated waste sites in America is leaking nuclear waste according to US officials. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation stores material from the production of atomic weapons, in tanks which have outlived their 20-year lifespan.
The nuclear leak is the first confirmed case of this type since the federal government’s introduction of a security program in 2005 to dispose of content from exposed single-shell tanks.
On Friday, the US Department of Energy announced that one of Hanford ‘s 177 radioactive waste tanks is disposing up to 300 gallons per year. The leaks have come from Tank T-111, built between 1943 and 1944, now holding some 447,000 gallons of highly radioactive slurry left from plutonium production of nuclear arms.
“The tank was classified as an assumed leaker in 1979,” said the DOE. “In February, 1995, interim stabilization was completed for this tank. In order to achieve interim stabilization, the pumpable liquids were removed in accordance with agreements with the State of Washington.”
The governor of the state was outraged by the announcement.
“I am alarmed about this on many levels,” Washington’s governor Jay Inslee said at a news conference. “This raises concerns, not only about the existing leak … but also concerning the integrity of the other single shell tanks of this age.”
The combination of the deteriorating state of the storage units and sequestration are a recipe for “perfect a radioactive storm,” said Inslee.
According to the Seattle Times, around 10 percent of the 586-square-mile facility is contaminated.