Hanford’s 56 million gallons of the most contaminated nuclear waste in the western hemisphere is a true horror story.
There are 177 storage tanks holding this waste; 149 of these are older single-shell carbon steel tanks, some there since the 1940s. Many have a life span of merely 20 years. There is no surprise that tanks are decaying.
In February, officials announced that six single-shell tanks were leaking. These are not the first leaks; there have been decades of earth contamination.
For the vitrification process to begin, consistency of the waste materials must be made and then kept uniform in order to be able to flow through pipes and filters without clogging. Clogging could result in enough plutonium collecting to trigger a nuclear chain reaction or backflow spreading the problem throughout the entire system. Currently, there is no design to do any of this effectively.
Another safety concern showing the mismanagement of Hanford is the potential for hydrogen gas buildup in double-shell tanks used to store waste removed from leaking single-shell tanks. Flammable gas builds up if there is insufficient ventilation, releasing radioactive material. Adequate ventilation is being used, but there is no backup plan.
Gov. Inslee supports sending three million gallons of Hanford’s waste to be stored in New Mexico. But environmental watchdog groups see the treatment process required to make this move as overly costly, time consuming and distracting.
Read more at Time is of the essence at Hanford site | As It Turns Out