• Toxic waste from nuclear power plant found to be leaking
    The storage tanks were implemented to replace older tanks

Soil Remediation

Toxic waste from nuclear power plant found to be leaking

Jun 27 2013

A tank holding vast amounts of some of the most radioactive toxic waste in the US might be leaking. The tank is on site at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, which is the most contaminated nuclear site in the country. Higher than normal levels of radioactivity were detected by workers performing a routine inspection, leading to the conclusion that the tank could be leaking dangerous levels of nuclear waste into the surrounding soil.

According to the US Energy department, workers at the nuclear site found that levels of radioactivity under tank AY-102 were higher than usual. The possible leak was reported to officials in Washington and an investigation has begun to assess whether there is indeed a leak and, if so, the size of the leak and the amount of toxic waste that could have been released into the soil. Lori Gamache, Energy Department spokesperson, said that sampling is being done to find the source of the high levels of radioactivity; alongside a video inspection of the tank.

Any leaks in tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, according to federal and state officials, will not cause problems in term of environmental and public health. The contamination is unable to progress as far as the Columbia River, which is located around five miles from the site. There are also no communities close at hand that could be affected by leaks, with the closest towns located downstream of the river.

Despite the risk of immediate effects, there is a chance that the leaked waste will ultimately spread to the areas groundwater; this in turn could contaminate the river, which is the largest waterway in the Pacific Northwest.  

The 28 tanks found at the site are now beyond the lifespan that was initially intended, posing the risk of further leaks. The tanks are double-shell tanks and were used to replace leaking single-shell tanks that were previously used on site. Whilst it was reported last year that tank AY-102 had a link between its two shells, but at the time none of the toxic waste was escaping from the tank.


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