U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today that the U.S. Department of Energy has determined there are six, single-shell tanks leaking radioactive waste at Hanford. Last week, the governor was told about one of those tanks. There are a total of 177 tanks at the Hanford site, 149 of which are single-shell tanks.
"I met with Secretary Chu in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, and he told me that the Department of Energy has now confirmed there are six tanks leaking radioactive waste at Hanford.
"There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles from the Columbia River.
"But nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians. One week ago, Secretary Chu told me there was one tank leaking. But he told me today that his department did not adequately analyze data it had that would have shown the other tanks that are leaking.
"This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford.
"I believe we need a new system for removing waste from these aging tanks, and was heartened to hear that the Department of Energy is looking at options for accelerating that process.
"Secretary Chu has a long-standing personal commitment to the clean-up of Hanford. He has assured me he will do all he can to address the issue of the leaking tanks. He also assured me there will be immediate additional monitoring of the single-wall tanks.
"The secretary and I agree that the state of Washington and the federal government must have a thorough and candid discussion about the need for additional storage tanks.
"Frankly, the state Department of Ecology is not convinced that current storage is adequate to meet legal and regulatory requirements.
"With potential sequestration and federal budget cuts looming, we need to be sure the federal government maintains its commitment and legal obligation to the cleanup of Hanford. To see Hanford workers furloughed at the exact moment we have additional leakers out there is completely unacceptable."