MOSCOW, February 23 (RIA Novosti) – Six of 177 underground tanks storing radioactive waste at the facility in Hanford, Washington, are leaking their contents, Governor Jay Inslee reported on his website on Friday.
“There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles from the Columbia River,” Inslee wrote.
The report, which cited US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, did not specify the amount of leaked waste.
The leak was first reported last week, but the US Department of Energy said at the time that only one of 149 single-shell tanks was affected, leaking 150 to 300 gallons (560 to 1,130 liters) of waste per year. The tank contains 447,000 gallons (1.7 million liters) of radioactive sludge, Inslee said on his website.
“This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford,” the governor wrote on Friday.
The nuclear production complex known as Hanford Site was launched in 1943 and is known for supplying plutonium for the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
The complex was decommissioned by 1987, but remains the biggest nuclear waste repository in the United States, storing 53 million gallons (200 million liters) of radioactive waste, including 30 million gallons in the 149 single-shell tanks, according to the State of Washington Department of Ecology.
A sweeping clean-up program was launched at Hanford in 1989, but it is not expected to be completed before 2050, according to the Department of Energy estimates from 2008.
The US General Accounting Office reported, also in 2008, that 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of waste leaked over the years from Hanford tanks, many of which were built in the 1940s.