An underground radioactive chemical storage tank in southeast Washington is leaking gallons of nuclear waste, the Washington State Department of Ecology, which is overseeing the cleanup of the site, reported Thursday.
The 75-year-old B-109 tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reserve is estimated to leak 3.5 gallons of trash per day into the ground, which works out to nearly 1,300 gallons per year.
“This highlights the critical need for resources to deal with Hanford’s aging tanks, which will continue to fail and leak over time,” Laura Watson, director of the Washington DOE, said in a statement.
The B-109 contains 123,000 gallons of waste and is believed to be leaking in an area where approximately 200,000 gallons have already leaked from other tanks at the site. As of March 2019, an estimated 1,700 gallons of trash have apparently leaked from the B-109 and the Washington State DOE has been tracking it for over a year.
Randy Bradbury, the Washington DOE communications manager, told CBS News his department acknowledged that the B-109’s fluid level was dropping over a year ago, but they didn’t know what was happening. was the cause. The Washington DOE, however, was informed on Thursday that the tank was indeed leaking.
The Hanford Nuclear Reserve, which was built during World War II to make plutonium for nuclear weapons, includes tanks containing various mixed wastes made up of both radioactive components and some of the “most dangerous wastes created in four. decades, ”the Washington Department of the Environment reported. In the past, more than 67 reservoirs in the reserve have been suspected of leaking or have actually leaked.
A National Environmental Policy Act environmental impact statement said “many geological issues with the Hanford reserve have been reported.”
“Leaving garbage in the ground is just not acceptable,” the statement read. “There is not enough information to attempt to leave radioactive waste in the ground.”
And checking for a tank leak is what Bradbury said it would take years to resolve.
“They’re all great in the ground,” Bradbury said. “It’s not something that’s going to happen next week or next month.”
But Watson said that from now on “the leak poses no immediate increased risk to workers or the public, but it adds to the continuing environmental threat to Hanford.”
Bradbury said the department’s main concern was to prevent trash from reaching the Columbia River, which is just 10 miles from B-109.
“It will basically stay in the ground, but it actually migrates and some of it has migrated,” he said.
Local organizations have called on lawmakers to address repeated leaks from the site’s tanks.
“This new B-109 leak highlights the need for Congress and the Department of Energy to act immediately to increase funding for cleanup and design and to build new tanks, as soon as possible,” the Hanford Challenge, a nonprofit advocacy organization, published in a declaration Thursday. “Hanford needs new tanks now.”
The group has gathered nearly 2,000 signatures on a petition to the US Secretary of Energy for the construction of new reservoirs on the reserve.