The Department of Energy says six tanks containing nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state are leaking, and a spokeswoman for the governor’s office says the information was delayed because of bad analysis.
Jaime Smith was quoted by Reuters as saying, “One of the frustrating things we have learned is that the Department of Energy had data that the leaks were going on—and had they analyzed it properly it would have told us much sooner that the leaks were occurring.”
One of the six leaks had already been identified and reported.
The site, which was built originally for the Manhattan Project and manufactured nuclear material into the 1980s, is located near the Columbia River.
As The New York Times reported in the excerpt below, officials are worried about the impact of budget cuts on the cleanup effort.
The New York Times:
The Department of Energy, Mr. Inslee said in a statement, “did not adequately analyze data it had that would have shown the other tanks that are leaking.”
Political leaders in Washington State and Oregon were already on high alert about Hanford as new worries about the site’s pollutants combined with concerns about federal budgets, especially if automatic spending cuts — the sequestration threat hanging over Congress — kick in, affecting the cleanup budget.
The Department of Energy, which oversees the site, said last week that one of the 177 tanks at the site was leaking radioactive waste liquids at a rate of 150 to 300 gallons per year. The department said then that the tank, which holds approximately 447,000 gallons of sludge, was the first one documented to be losing liquids since interim stabilization of Hanford’s tanks was completed in 2005.