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DOE: Hanford Tanks Leaking Less Than 3 Gallons Per Day

Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new detail has emerged on the leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal Energy Department acknowledged last week that six single-shelled tanks are holding less radioactive waste than they used to.

Worst case: Three gallons per day adds up to 1,095 gallons of radioactive waste per year. The Department of Energy says it doesn’t know yet how long these tanks might have been seeping waste.

Meanwhile, the Washington Department of Ecology is demanding more information on changing tank levels from the federal government.

“I think we are certainly looking for a lot more data and the analysis of the data to be given to us. We didn’t ask for that before,” says Cheryl Whalen, tank waste expert with the state agency.

Whalen explains that interpreting data from these tanks is hard. But even so, she is not sure how these leaks went unnoticed by state regulators and federal managers — and for how long.

Department of Energy Statement:

“The Department of Energy is committed to the safe cleanup of the Hanford site. The cumulative rate of seepage from the 6 tanks is currently estimated to be less than three gallons a day. To put that amount in perspective, roughly 1 million gallons of material previously leaked into the soil from the single-shell tanks at Hanford over a period of decades. To address those tanks that were leaking, by 2005, the Department removed all the drainable liquid possible out of the single-shell tanks, into double-shell tanks. We have not observed any discernible change in the contamination levels in the monitoring wells, but continue to monitor it very closely.”

- Lindsey Geisler, DOE spokesperson.

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