23 Feb

I mentioned in the last post that there is an underground tank at the Hanford Nuclear site leaking radiation.  “[…] The Hanford nuclear site is leaking radioactivity again, but we are assured that there is no “immediate threat”.  (No, there is not immediate threat – one does not fall over dead the day after exposure to radioactive material.  Eventually, though, of course…) […]” –

It turns out there are at least six tanks leaking nuclear waste.

At least six underground tanks containing nuclear waste in the northwestern US state of Washington are leaking, but there is no imminent threat to public health, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The US Energy Department told the state last week that one tank was leaking at the Hanford nuclear site, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu informed its governor Jay Inslee on Friday that more leaks had been discovered.

“Secretary Chu let him know today that there are actually more tanks they’ve discovered leaking, at least six, possibly more,” Inslee’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith told AFP, after the meeting between Inslee and Chu in Washington DC.

“At this point we don’t believe that there’s any imminent threat to public health. Of course we’re concerned, because we don’t have any information yet about the extent of the leak or how long they’ve been going on.”

Asked for details of the leaking material, she said: “It’s nuclear waste. Different tanks have slightly different kinds of waste that they’re holding. We’re not clear yet on exactly what has been leaking for how long.”

The Hanford nuclear site in the southwest of the US state was used to produce plutonium for the bomb that brought an end to World War II.

Output grew after 1945 to meet the challenges of the Cold War, but the last reactor closed down in 1987. Its website says: “Weapons production processes left solid and liquid wastes that posed a risk to the local environment.”

The ecological threat extends to the Columbia River, it added, noting that in 1989 US federal and Washington state authorities agreed a deal to clean up the Hanford Site.

The Washington governor’s spokeswoman said they hoped for more information about the leaking tanks soon.

“The Department of Energy has committed to try and get us more information pretty quickly, hopefully within the next week or so. So we should have more information soon,” she said.

Despite not knowing the extent of the leaks, how long they’ve been going on, or exactly which materials have been leaking, they can assure the public that there is not imminent threat.    I can assure you that without knowing those key pieces of information, they have no idea what the level of threat to public health is.  There undoubtedly is one – we are talking about nuclear waste here.  Hey, wait a minute – how could the leaks have gone undetected and why are they ‘waiting for information’?  Hanford has supposedly been undergoing attempts to clean up, repair and contain problems since the 1980’s – yet no-one is monitoring it closely enough to notice these multiple leaks?  How very strange.

Congress had a bill before it during the last session to make Hanford one of three nuclear sites part of the US National Park system (complete with tours and, I presume, lovely picnic areas); the bill did not make it through during the last session, but will be reintroduced this year.

For some background and information on Hanford, see:

Money to clean up Hanford (and to clean up and upgrade nuclear sites across the US – Hanford is not the only site with contamination problems; it is merely the worst one) will be curtailed if Congress allows their Sequester Bomb to explode.  But what are a few dead Americans?  If Obama’s detention and drone programs don’t bother these people, surely a little nuclear waste doesn’t.  Besides, they’ve been ignoring these particular problems for a very long time.  And there is no point in mentioning the imminent threat to the environment – to the officials in charge, “the environment” means  “who designed your office furniture?”

Further reading:


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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in environment


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