Washington State House Democrats


Hanford hit by a new, high-level nuclear-waste leak

 You no doubt have been following the alarming situation involving the high-level nuclear-waste leak that recently occurred at Hanford. Perhaps you saw a TV-news segment on this issue the other day. The KOMO TV piece included my views, both as one of our state legislators and as Executive Director and legal counsel of the Heart of America Northwest organization.

Federal Energy Department officials have said that one of the older “single-shell tanks” (T-111) is leaking 150-300 gallons of deadly waste annually. This leak will eventually reach groundwater flowing to the Columbia River, and will add to damage done by previous leaks. The tank has about a half-million gallons of high-level waste sludge after “pumpable” liquids were removed. The “plan” for removing waste from the old, leaking single-shell tanks is to move the waste to four-decade-old double-shell tanks. This past November, however, Energy folks admitted that the receiving tank is leaking. I believe new tanks are called for, and that we need to exercise our state’s hazardous-waste-permit authority to take action for cleaning up leaks before they reach groundwater. To date, though, our state Department of Ecology has refused to exercise that authority — despite admonitions to do so from hundreds of citizens testifying in permit-hearings last year.