Hanford Nuclear Facility Coping With Leak


B. McPherson
Some disquieting information about Hanford's activities. Ask was it an earthquake or a small nuclear explosion.
Hanford Nuclear Facility located in eastern Washington State has a leak in one of its large storage tanks(75 ft diameter). The double walled tanks are sunk into the ground. The inner shell of the tank has leaked radioactive sludge into the space between the shells.

It has been reported that the leak was detected a year ago but authorities of the US Department of Energy(DOE) were prepared to wait until the problem worsened as they deemed the breach of the liner no danger to the public.

This has prompted the State of Washington to remind them that they are required to take action within 24 hours of discovering that the tank was not sound. It contains liquid material as well as the sludge.

Currently the DOE does not have the equipment or a plan to remedy the problem and estimates that it will be two years before any material is removed from the defective tank. It is not a simple problem of pump out the liquid and scoop up the gunk. The liquid helps cool the radioactive sludge and removing the liquid will allow the residue to heat, speeding corrosion.

Space in the double-shell tanks is nearing capacity as work continues to build the vitrification plant to start treating the waste for disposal. One single-shell tank is known to be leaking waste into the ground and 67 are suspected of leaking waste in the past before much of the liquid waste they held was removed. Tri City Herald
                                                  
Hanford is home to 28 of the double walled tanks. They were built in the late 1960s and early 80s to replace 149 dangerous single walled storage tanks. There are still single walled tanks buried at the former weapons grade production plant and some of them are believed to be leaking into the ground.

This comes at a time when the US Federal Government is looking to cut $100 million from the ongoing cleanup budget of the former wartime facility. In 1943 residents of the town of Hanford were removed and a facility to produce weapon grade plutonium was built. At the time, little attention was paid to safety and little education was provided to the workers. This has resulted in a badly contaminated site that is leaking radioactive materials into the Columbia River, contaminating ground water and structures. Spontaneous small nuclear explosions have occurred in the past when much radioactive material escaped the plant and accumulated in ditches.

Physicians for Social Responsibility mince no words in describing the conditions there.

Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the western world. Hanford's radioactive and toxic wastes pose serious health and environmental threats.

In some ways Washington State is still fighting WWII.
Also read KOMO News

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