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Hanford Nuclear Site Update

July 29, 2013

Last we reported radioactive waste was found leaking from seven of the 177 tanks at the site. Six of those are single-shelled tanks and one is a double-shelled known as AY-102.

The Office of River Protection reported last week that the increased radiation levels outside the tank were found while removing rainwater from the leak detection pit. Testing included sampling the water remaining in the detection pit, video inspection, and analysis of the pump used to remove the water from the pit.

The River Protection Office said based on this testing, there is no conclusive indication of a leak from the secondary layer of tank at this time.

Executive director for the watchdog organization Hanford Challenge Tom Carpenter said a saucer of radioactive waste rests underneath the tank, making it difficult to tell where and how the tank is leaking. Carpenter said the current investigative measures are not enough to have a definitive answer.

The Department of Energy has stated they are taking actions necessary to prepare for pumping the liquid from the tank – if it should come to that. Carpenter said while it may become necessary to do that, there’s nowhere for the waste to go. All the tanks at Hanford are currently in use, with a few kept empty in case of an emergency. In order to house the waste in tank AY-102, new tanks would have to be built - at least a dozen.

New tanks would be cheap, although temporary, solution. Part of the reason Hanford Challenge is advocating for new tanks is because a waste treatment facility, known as vitrification plant, has seen a slew of delays over the last few years.

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