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State says Hanford nuclear-waste tank leak no danger to public

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Hanford nuclear site (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

RICHLAND, Wash.  — The state Department of Ecology said Monday that an alarm was activated Sunday at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation while crews were pumping nuclear waste out of a tank, but there was no leak into the environment and no danger to the public.

“The Department of Energy notified the Washington Department of Ecology that the leak detector alarm went off,” the Department of Ecology said, adding that the alarm indicates an increase in waste seeping from the primary tank into the space between the primary and secondary tank.

“There is no indication of waste leaking into the environment or risk to the public at this time,” the department said.

Crews have been actively removing waste from the tank, AY-102, since March because mixed radioactive and chemical waste had previously leaked into the secondary containment area, the department said. Approximately 20,000 gallons of waste remains from the original 800,000 gallons in the tank.

According to the Department of Energy, the removal work is currently on hold while engineers evaluate the situation and prepare a plan to recover the material that leaked between the two walls of the tank.

On Monday morning, an Ecology Nuclear Waste Program engineer assessed the situation with the Department of Energy waste retrieval engineers to assure that contingency response plans are being followed, the Department of Ecology said.

Additional leaking was a known possibility during pumping, the department said.

 

There are 28 double-shell tanks at the Hanford site.

Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, including the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and contains a huge volume of radioactive waste.