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Hanford challenge demands action on leaking nuclear waste tank

Ongoing threat.’ Groups demand action on leaking Hanford nuclear waste tank, Tri City Herald,

BY ANNETTE CARY, MAY 01, 2021   RICHLAND, WA

The newly discovered leak in another of Hanford’s aging tanks storing radioactive waste does not appear to threaten the health of Washington people in the near term, said Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Washington state Department of Ecology has the legal authority under the Tri-Party Agreement to take immediate action in response to the leaking tank only if it is “necessary to abate an imminent and substantial endangerment” to people or the environment.

Instead, the agency is starting talks with federal energy officials on what to do next.

If the two agencies can’t agree, then the state could take action, such as fines, and require specific steps to deal with the underground leak.

But groups from Seattle to the Tri-Cities that follow Hanford closely spoke out after the public was told Thursday about the leak.

Demands ranged from immediately emptying the tank to building better storage tanks for waste to a pilot project that could get more waste treated soon.

DOE notified the state Thursday that the tank was leaking, after investigating that possibility since March 2019.

Estimates of the amount of waste that have leaked vary, but the Department of Ecology puts it at a rate of nearly 1,300 gallons per year with an estimated 1,700 gallons leaked into the soil since March 2019…………..

The governor believes Congress should find opportunities to pay for construction needed to prepare waste now held in underground tanks for treatment and to glassify the tank for permanent disposal, his staff said.

Transferring waste from leak-prone single shell tanks to hold them in newer double-shell tanks is only a stop-gap measure and permanent solutions are needed, he said.

Tank B-109 is the second of Hanford’s 149 single-shell tanks identified as having active leaks in recent years. In 2013 Tank T-111 was discovered to be leaking about a half gallon to a gallon a day of waste.

Hanford is left with 56 million gallons of mixed radioactive and other hazardous chemical waste from the past production of two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium for its nuclear weapons program during World War II and the Cold War.

Work is underway to empty waste from leak-prone single-shell tanks into 27 newer double-shell tanks until it can be treated for permanent disposal.

As DOE works to start turning some of the tank waste into a stable glass form for disposal at the Hanford site’s $17 billion vitrification plant by the end of 2023, space is running short in the double-shell tanks.

NEW TANKS VS CLEANUP

Hanford Challenge, based in Seattle, said Tank B-109 needs to be emptied into another tank, putting pressure on DOE to build more tanks.

It quoted a Government Accountability Office report saying that DOE said that insufficient space in double-shell tanks was the top risk to its work to empty and close its aging tanks.

Work is underway to empty waste from leak-prone single-shell tanks into 27 newer double-shell tanks until it can be treated for permanent disposal.

As DOE works to start turning some of the tank waste into a stable glass form for disposal at the Hanford site’s $17 billion vitrification plant by the end of 2023, space is running short in the double-shell tanks.


Tank B-109 has been in use since World War II and currently holds about 123,000 gallons of waste, including about 15,000 gallons of liquid waste………………. https://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article251052504.html

May 10, 2021 - Posted by | opposition to nuclear, USA, wastes

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