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Hanford nuclear waste tank may be leaking, U.S. officials say via KOMO

by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — An underground nuclear waste storage tank in Washington state that dates to World War II appears to be leaking contaminated liquid into the ground, the U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday.

It’s the second tank believed to be leaking waste left from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The first was discovered in 2013. Many more of the 149 single-walled storage tanks at the site are suspected of leaking.

Tank B-109, the latest suspected of leaking, holds 123,000 gallons (465,000 liters) of radioactive waste. The giant tank was constructed during the Manhattan Project and received waste from Hanford operations between 1946 to 1976.

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The tank had been previously emptied of pumpable liquids, leaving a small amount of liquid waste inside, the agency said. Systems in the area capture and remove contaminants that reach the groundwater and ensure the protection of the Columbia River, the agency said.

The leak from Tank B-109 was first suspected in March 2019, when there appeared to be a small drop in the level of its liquid waste. Monthly checks showed the level stable until July 2020, when another drop was detected, and the DOE launched an investigation.

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