Inslee says Hanford leaks could be 1,000 gallons a year

OLYMPIA — Radioactive waste tanks may be leaking some 1,000 gallons per year at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday officials are still evaluating how to effectively remove the remaining material from the problematic tanks.

The 1,000-gallon figure is a rough estimate based on the early assessment of six identified leakers. Inslee said the leakage numbers are still being evaluated to determine exactly how much has been lost and how fast the waste is leaving the tanks.

Inslee said there’s no available technology to plug the leaks, so federal and state officials are working to find the best available solution to remove the sludge. Inslee said that solution could come in weeks or months.

“We want to find the most expeditious way to get this job done,” Inslee said.

Hanford has 177 aging tanks that store millions of gallons of radioactive sludge. Inslee said faulty data analysis meant officials did not properly catch signs of leaking before now, and Inslee expressed concern about the other tanks at the reservation.

Federal officials say there is no immediate threat to public safety and that they have not detected any discernible change in contamination levels in monitoring wells.

The federal government built the Hanford facility in south-central Washington at the height of World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Now the tanks at Hanford hold some 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste.

Leakage has been a problem in the past, with an estimated 1 million gallons of radioactive liquid having already leaked, but the tanks were believed to have been stabilized in 2005.

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