Nuclear Waste Leak Sparks Outrage

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Monday, February 18, 2013 - 9:49am

Tank at Washington facility identified as "repeat leaker" years ago still in use.

One of the single-shell tanks storing radioactive waste at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site is leaking around 150 to 300 gallons of liquid per year, Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Friday, raising concerns of other storage facilities at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The U.S. Department of Energy said liquid levels are decreasing in one of 177 underground tanks at the nuclear reservation. Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels, the agency said. Inslee said the leak could be in the range of 150 gallons to 300 gallons over the course of a year.

"I am alarmed about this on many levels," Inslee said at a Friday afternoon news conference. "This raises concerns, not only about the existing leak ... but also concerning the integrity of the other single shell tanks of this age."

There are a total of 177 tanks at the Hanford site, 149 of which are single shell tanks.

Inslee said the amount of radioactive waste leaked does not pose an immediate public health threat, and Hanford has seen bigger leaks before, but what concerns the governor's office is this could be the first of many leaks.

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