RICHLAND, Wash. — There’s a possible leak in a single-shell tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. The U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors say liquid levels in a radioactive waste tank are decreasing. Energy officials report the rate of loss is about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid a year.
The tank, called T-111, is a 530,000-gallon capacity underground storage tank was put into service in 1945. The Department of Energy says T-111 currently contains approximately 447,000 gallons of radioactive sludge, a mixture of solids and liquids with a mud-like consistency.
In a press conference this afternoon, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the news “very disturbing.”
The specific cause for the drop in levels isn’t known. But nearby monitoring wells haven’t found significant changes in chemicals or radionuclides in the soil. The Department of Energy says it’s closely monitoring the area and a plan is being formed on what to do next.
This tank was classified as an “assumed leaker” in 1979. In February 1995, some stabilization was done on this tank by pumping out liquids.
There are a total of 177 tanks at the Hanford site. They store the leftovers from producing plutonium during WWII and the Cold War.