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Hanford nuclear waste tanks at risk of explosion

"US residents near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation may be in grave danger: a nuclear safety board found that the underground tanks holding toxic, radioactive waste could explode at any minute, due to a dangerous buildup of hydrogen gas.

After Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DFNSB) about the risks posed by the nuclear site, board members relayed their concerns about the potential for hydrogen gas buildup within the walls of a tank – particularly those with double walls.

"All the double-shell tanks contain waste that continuously generates some flammable gas," the board said in a letter received by Wyden on Monday. "This gas will eventually reach flammable conditions if adequate ventilation is not provided."

The safety board had previously issued a warning about their concerns, which have not yet been addressed. In September, the board sent a letter to the Department of Energy, claiming that there were no adequate safeguards to protect against the buildup of flammable gasses inside Hanford’s waste storage tanks. The letter, which outlines the concerns shared with Sen. Wyden on Monday, was declassified on Tuesday.

If the tanks were to explode, there would be flammable releases that would “have considerable radiological consequences, endanger personnel, contaminate portions of the Tank Farms, and seriously disrupt the waste cleanup mission,” the previously classified DFNSB report states.

Hanford’s double-shelled tanks contain some of the deadliest mixtures of nuclear and chemical waste left over from World War II and Cold War-era plutonium production. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been a serious cause of concern, since six of the facility’s tanks were found to be leaking about 1,000 gallons of nuclear waste each year. The Department of Energy discovered the leaks years ago, but has failed to address the problem."


Previous post about leakage & the Governor stating there was no immediate threat:

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Decades of neglect.

Birds not coming home to this roost. Word to the wise will suffice. Words, charts & diagrams to the otherwise, are for not.

Disclaimer: Mark Twain (1835-1910-To be continued) is unlicensed. His river pilot's license went delinquent in 1862. Caution advised. Daily Paul

Local taxes spent asking feds to clean up their mess there.

Older nuclear waste storage tanks at Hanford in southeast Washington. Dating back 6 decades. (U.S. Department of Energy) [Decades of locals asking Washington DC folks to come and clean up their mess. Seems there is confusion about their meaning of "their" there.]

... Hanford’s history. In 1943, the Hanford Site was developed by the U.S. Government for the production of plutonium as part of the Manhattan Project that developed atomic bombs during World War II.

The site continued to produce plutonium as well as nuclear energy until the last reactor stopped operating in 1987. The weapons production and nuclear energy operations at Hanford left dangerous and environmentally harmful solid and liquid waste, creating one of the largest and most complex cleanup projects in the U.S. That effort has been in progress since 1989.

Hanford's 177 total storage tanks, some of which date from the 1940s, hold more than 50 million gallons of radioactive waste. These six leaking tanks are among 149 older “single-shell” tanks, which only have one liner. (Tanks constructed more recently feature “double-shells.”) However, these older tanks were designed for a lifespan of only about 20 years. According to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, "This certainly raises serious questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks with radioactive liquid and sludge at Hanford.”

While tanks at the site have leaked in the past...

The six leaking tanks pose no immediate threat to natural resources because they are located 200–300 feet above the groundwater table. The State of Washington indicates that there is no immediate or near-term health risk as the leaking tanks are located more than five miles from the Columbia River. ...

While this latest discovery affects the ongoing cleanup, it does not change the focus of the Hanford Natural Resource Damage Assessment because the Hanford Natural Resource Trustee Council is already evaluating harm from contamination flowing into the Columbia River, which borders the site and is home to Chinook salmon and sturgeon. The council includes representatives from NOAA, three tribal organizations, the States of Washington and Oregon, and two other federal agencies. It is tasked with characterizing the cumulative impacts from decades of releases and contamination to the fish, wildlife, and the habitats they rely upon, and determining the cumulative restoration needed to replace, restore, and offset the total decades of damage....

Disclaimer: Mark Twain (1835-1910-To be continued) is unlicensed. His river pilot's license went delinquent in 1862. Caution advised. Daily Paul