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Sunday , February 24 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Radioactive waste leak at US nuke site

Seattle, Feb. 23 (Reuters): Six underground tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on the Columbia river in southern Washington state are leaking radioactive waste, but there is no immediate risk to public health, governor Jay Inslee said yesterday.

Inslee said he was informed of one leaking tank at the decommissioned nuclear weapons plant last week by outgoing US energy secretary Steven Chu — but was told by Chu yesterday that radioactive waste was seeping out of a total of six tanks. “There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than 8km 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 single-shell tanks because staff there did not adequately analyse data it had. “This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford,” he said.

Representatives for the US department of energy did not immediately respond to requests for comment yesterday afternoon.

In a press release issued a week ago, the department of energy said that declining liquid levels in tank T-111 at Hanford showed it was leaking at a rate of 568 to 1,136 litres per year. The department said in the release that monitoring wells have not identified significant changes in concentrations of chemicals or radionuclides in the soil.

The department of energy said T-111 is a 530,000 gallon-capacity underground storage tank that was built between 1943 and 1944 and put into service in 1945. It was classified an “assumed leaker” in 1979 and an interim stabilisation project was completed in 1995.