Of the 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in Hanford's High-Level Nuclear Waste Tanks, 30 million gallons remain in Single Shell Tanks (SSTs), which were built and filled long before the 1970's-era law that required hazardous waste tanks to have protective double shells. On February 15th, 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) released a press release stating that SST T-111 was leaking. Seven days later, they reported that tanks B-203, B-204, T-203, T-204, and TY-105 were "assumed leakers".
Tank T-111 is currently leaking at a rate of 300 gallons of nuclear waste per year, but isn't scheduled to be emptied for decades. Governor Inslee declared a "zero tolerance" policy for new leaks from Hanford High-Level Waste tanks. But... as of August 2022, T-111 is still leaking and Washington has taken ZERO action to stop the larger leak from B-109 announced in April ,2021. Click here for a fact sheet and link to email the Governor urging action.
UPDATE April 29, 2021: USDOE Admits Another Tank (B-109) is Leaking:
After doing nothing for 8 years while T-111 and others leaked, on April 29, 2021 USDOE announced that Single Shell Tank B-109 is leaking 1,200 to 1,500 gallons per year. That's much more than T-111.
Heart of America Northwest filed a legal challenge to the agreement. after documenting:
To settle our legal challenge, USDOE agreed to an independent review in 2023 of the process and equipment that its own experts have siad are available to remove leakable liquids and stop the leak.
Learn more with our Powerpoint presentation here. Watch webinarcovering our research showing the leak went on for > 2 years before being disclosed and reported, that much more waste has leaked than reported, and how you can help.
USDOE told a federal court that the High Radioactive Waste portion of the Treatment Plant will not be finished until at least 2039! USDOE's goal is to start "Low Activity Waste" (LAW) processing into glass in 2023 bypassing the stalled, massive "pretreatment" plant and using tank side removal of Cesium from the wastes before they are pumped to the LAW plant. This is called "Direct Feed LAW."
The LAW vitrification plant, however, is only sized to be able to treat about half of the LAW waste in Hanford's High Level Waste tanks. Congress has mandated that USDOE study alternatives for treating the other half of the LAW waste - referreed to as "Supplemental Treatment Alternatives."
The least cost and most environmentally beneficial of those alternatives appears to be removing the leakable liquids into portable containers for treatment at a commercial site adjacent to Hanford, followed with disposal of waste treated and solidified in a cement like form for disposal at sites in either West Texas or Utah where there is NO potable groundwater that would ever be put at risk from leakage. This would greatly reduce contamination at Hanford and speed up removal of tank wastes before many more tanks leak.
Image from US Department of Energy showing predicted contamination levels of Uranium 238 in the year 3890 from contamination leaked from Hanford's tanks. Hanford's groundwater will still be radioactive more than 1,500 years from now under USDOE's proposals to let tanks leak and not remove contamination!
EmptyHanford's Leaking High-Level Nuclear Waste Tanks
Even the newer Double Shell Tanks will leak:, one of the Double-Shell tanks (DSTs) has actively leaked in recent years, and the design flaws that caused the leak are present in other DSTs. This not only requires that these tanks also be emptied, but that new DSTs must be built to replace those. Click here for KING5's investigative series on leaking DST AY-102.
In light of the construction delay and defective double-shells, either new Double Shell Tanks need to be constructed into which remaining waste from these leaking SSTs emptied, or USDOE and Washington Ecology need to allow full-scale testing of the "SAFE" offsite treatment and disposal alternative (also called "Test Bed Initiative" ). SAFE offers the potential to removed the liquids from leaking tanks or tanks that are at high risk of leaking, with the waste treated to meet all disposal standards for offsite disposal at a permitted site with no drinkable groundwater to ever be at risk. SAFE is both the only option that reduces the total amount of waste to be disposed in Hanford landfills AND is estimated to cost about 50x less per gallon of waste than DFLAW.
Contamination from tank leaks must be dealt with at the source before it spreads even further through the groundwater and into the Columbia River. Principle #1: don't let more waste leak!
The public's voice for Hanford cleanup, clean energy, and nuclear safety across the Northwest