Nuclear waste leak triggers alarm at Hanford

Image: Double-shell tank
This graphic shows a cutaway view of a double-shell nuclear waste storage tank at the Hanford Site. Liquid waste has pooled up in the space between the inner and outer shell of one tank, designated AY-102. (Credit: Washington State Department of Ecology)

A long-simmering leak inside a double-walled nuclear waste storage tank at the Hanford Site in Eastern Washington got worse over the weekend, sparking an alarm, officials said today.

Online reports from the Tri-City Herald and KING-TV said that the leak detection alarm came on Sunday morning, and that radioactive waste had pooled between the inner and outer shell of Hanford’s Tank AY-102 to a depth of about 8 inches. By today, the waste level had dropped slightly, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a statement emailed to GeekWire.

The Washington State Department of Ecology said there was “no indication of waste leaking into the environment or risk to the public at this time.”

KING quoted a former Hanford worker, Mike Geffre, as saying the leak had become catastrophic. “This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history,” he said.

Today’s statements from federal and state officials made the situation sound less dire, however.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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