Six underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington state were recently found to be leaking radioactive waste, but there is no immediate risk to human health, state and federal officials said on Friday.
The seeping waste adds to decades of soil contamination caused by leaking storage tanks at Hanford in the past and threatens to further taint groundwater below the site but poses no near-term danger of polluting the Columbia River, officials said.
The newly discovered leaks were revealed by Governor Jay Inslee at a news conference a week after the U.S. Energy Department disclosed that radioactive waste was found to be escaping from one tank at Hanford.
Inslee said he was informed on Friday by outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu that a total of six of the aging, single-walled tanks were leaking radioactive waste.
"There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than 5 miles from the Columbia River," Inslee said in a statement released by his office. "But nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians."
The governor said Chu told him that his department initially missed the other five leaking tanks because staff there did not adequately analyze data.
"This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford," he said.Washington's next-door neighbours here in British Columbia won't be too thrilled about this either.