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Signs of another nuclear waste storage tank leaking at Hanford

The Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility is seen at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation June 30, 2005 near Richland, Washington. (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

An underground nuclear waste storage tank at Central Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation shows signs it is leaking.

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The U.S. Department of Energy says the rotting container holds 123,000 gallons of radioactive waste leftover from U.S. military bomb making. The giant tank was constructed during the Manhattan Project and received waste from Hanford operations between 1946 to 1976.

The department says a system in place will keep contaminants from reaching groundwater or the Columbia River.

“There is no increased health or safety risk to the Hanford workforce or the public,” said Geoff Tyree, a spokesman for the Energy Department. “Contamination in this area is not new and mitigation actions have been in place for decades to protect workers, the public and the environment.”

Gov. Inslee seconded that there is not believed to be any threat to the residents of Washington.

“I am advised from the information from the federal government that we see no reason to believe there is any imminent threat of health to Washingtonians,” Inslee said.

This is the second take believe to be leaking waste left from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, after the first leaking tank was discovered in 2013. There are 149 storage tanks at Hanford, and some are suspected of being cracked and possibly leaking as well.

“It has been a long-time concern of ours because there have been previous thousands gallons of waste — I’m advised this is about 1,300 gallons that has been identified in this particular leak,” Gov. Inslee said.

“This recognition of an ongoing incident I think highlights the need for additional resources at Hanford to prevent further tank leaking,” he added.

The Associated Press reports that the Hanford site near Richland produced about two-thirds of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and now is the most contaminated radioactive waste site in the nation. A multi-billion dollar environmental cleanup has been underway for decades at the sprawling Hanford site.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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