SEATTLE: Six underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington state were recently found to be leaking radioactive waste, but there is no immediate risk to human health, state and federal officials have said.
The seeping waste adds to decades of soil contamination caused by leaking storage tanks at Hanford in the past and threatens to further taint groundwater below the site but poses no near-term danger of polluting the Columbia River, officials said.
The newly discovered leaks were revealed by Governor Jay Inslee a week after the US Energy Department disclosed that radioactive waste was found to be escaping from one tank
at Hanford. Inslee said he was informed on Friday by outgoing US Energy Secretary Steven Chu that six of the aging, single-walled tanks were leaking radioactive waste. “There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than 5 miles (8 km) from the Columbia River,” Inslee said in a statement released by his office. “But nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians.”
The governor said Chu told him that his department initially missed the other five leaking tanks because staff there did not adequately analyse data. “This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford,”
The Energy Department issued a brief statement acknowledging that six waste tanks were found to be leaking and adding that there was “no immediate public health risk.” REUTERS