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 until at least the year 2024. The waste from the other "assumed leakers" is likewise not scheduled to be retrieved for another five to ten years.
Even though leaking tanks are legally required to be emptied within 24 hours or at the "earliest practicable time", the USDOE continues to do nothing about these SST leaks and instead fund the construction of a Vitrification Plant to glassify Hanford's remaining waste. However, the 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 2022 bypassing the stalled, massive "pretreatment" plant and using tank side removal of Cesium from the wastes before they are pumped to the LAW plant.
Image from US Department of Energy showing predicted contamination levels of Uranium 238 in the year 3890 -- Hanford's groundwater will still be radioactive more than 1,500 years from now!
EmptyHanford's Leaking High-Level Nuclear Waste Tanks
To top it all off, 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, it is imperative that new Double Shell Tanks be constructed into which remaining waste from these leaking SSTs emptied. This contamination must be dealt with at the source before it spreads even further through the groundwater and into the Columbia River.
The public's voice for Hanford cleanup, clean energy, and nuclear safety across the Northwest