WASHINGTON — Cleanup of radioactive waste at nuclear sites across the country — including one in Washington state where waste tanks may be leaking 1,000 gallons per year — would be delayed under automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the cuts would delay work at the department’s highest-risk sites, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., where six tanks are leaking radioactive waste left over from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
At Hanford, the retrieval of radioactive waste from leak-prone underground tanks would be delayed, the report said.
The federal government built the Hanford facility at the height of World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, which built the atomic bomb. The site, along the Columbia River, holds at least 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste — enough to fill dozens of Olympic-size swimming pools. Many of the tanks are known to have leaked in the past. An estimated 1 million gallons of radioactive liquid already leaked there.
Other high-risk sites facing work delays are the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Idaho National Laboratory.