An underground nuclear waste storage tank in southeast Washington state is leaking radioactive waste into the ground, according to a Washington state Department of Ecology press release.
The 75-year-old tank, called B-109, at Hanford Nuclear Reservation is estimated to be leaking 3.5 gallons per day, or approximately 1,300 gallons per year of radioactive material. The tank holds around 123,000 gallons of radioactive waste dating back to when atomic bombs were being built throughout the Manhattan Project.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is a decommissioned nuclear production facility operated by the federal government on the Columbia River in Benton County. The facility is about a four-hour drive east of Portland.
"It's a serious matter whenever a Hanford tank leaks its radioactive and dangerous chemical waste," Ecology Director Laura Watson said.
The B-109 tank is leaking into an area where 200,000 gallons of waste have already entered the ground. The site is miles away from the Columbia River, and the tank is only 210-240 feet above the local water table.
Dangers Of Nuclear Waste Leaking Into Columbia River
"This leak is adding to the estimated one million gallons of tank waste already in the soil across the Hanford site," Watson said. "This highlights the critical need for resources to address Hanford's aging tanks, which will continue to fail and leak over time."
Despite the leak, Watson said:
"Based on the information we have right now, the leak poses no immediate increased risk to workers or the public, but it adds to the ongoing environmental threat at Hanford."
This new leak puts added pressure on lawmakers on Capitol Hill to include increased funding for nuclear cleanup.
Since the Atomic Age of the 1940s-1960s, nuclear waste, a byproduct from atomic weapons and or more current, nuclear waste from nuclear reactors, fuel processing plants, hospitals, and research facilities, has to be stored in underground facilities once the fuel is spent. A reoccurring theme of storage issues appears to be developing that structures built decades ago to hold waste breakdown over time, allowing waste to pour into the local ecosystem.
The atomic age has scarred the ecosystem with microscopic particles of radioactive material still detected in honey.
With billionaire Bill Gates attempting to push a new atomic age as a source of "green energy," - it's likely the increase of waste will just continue to be buried in underground tanks for future generations to deal with.