Hanford waste removal resumes after leak check

Workers install transfer lines in March to connect the equipment for transferring toxic waste from Hanford’s Tank AY-102 to another double-shell tank. (Credit: DOE)

Workers install transfer lines in March to connect the equipment for transferring toxic waste from Hanford’s Tank AY-102 to another double-shell tank. (Credit: DOE)

The U.S. Department of Energy says there’s no sign that toxic waste has leaked into the environment from a double-shell storage tank at Eastern Washington’s Hanford Site, and it has resumed operations to remove the waste from the tank.

Last weekend, an alarm was set off when sensors detected that the level of sludge had risen to about 8 inches deep in the space between the inner and outer walls of Tank AY-102.

Leaks in the inner wall of that underground tank have been causing problems for years, and last month, workers began pumping the mixed radioactive and chemically toxic waste out of the tank for storage in other double-shell tanks. Even before the procedure began, planners determined there was a chance that disturbing the material in AY-102 could cause more waste to leak into the space between the walls.

“We were prepared for this event,” Glyn Trenchard, the Energy Department’s deputy assistant manager for Hanford’s tank farms, said April 21 in a statement.

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About Alan Boyle

Award-winning science writer, creator of Cosmic Log, 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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