Governor Inslee's statement on news of Hanford leak

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The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that one of the single-shell tanks storing radioactive waste at Hanford is leaking liquids in the range of 150 to 300 gallons per year. The leaking tank was built in the 1940s and stabilized in February 1995, when all pumpable liquids were removed following agreement with the state. The tank now contains approximately 447,000 gallons of sludge, a mixture of solids and liquids with a mud-like consistency. This is the first tank that has been documented to be losing liquids since interim stabilization was completed in 2005. There are a total of 177 tanks at the Hanford site, 149 of which are single-shell tanks.

Statement from Gov. Jay Inslee:

Secretary Chu called me this morning with the news of a newly leaking, single-shell tank at Hanford

I am alarmed and deeply concerned by this news. This was a problem we thought was under control, years ago, when the liquids were pumped from the tanks and the sludge was stabilized. We can't just leave 149 single-shell tanks with high-level radioactive liquid and sludge sitting in the ground for decades after their design life.

Let me be clear: Washington state has a zero tolerance policy on radioactive leakage. We will not tolerate any leaks of this material into the environment.

Fortunately, there is no immediate public health risk. The newly discovered leak may not hit the groundwater for many years, and we have a groundwater treatment system in place that provides a last defense for the river. However, the fact that this tank is one of the farthest from the river is not an excuse for delay. It is a call to act now.

I am appreciative of Secretary Chu's personal attention to this matter, and know he will deploy all technically possible solutions to address the leaking tank. I will meet with the secretary next week in Washington, D.C., to hear about the department's progress on stopping the leak and preventing further tank leaks at Hanford.

This news is a sharp reminder - a wakeup call - that we can't be complacent, or waver in any way, on our nation's commitment to clean up Hanford. I know this is a time of tight budgets, but with an active leak of high-level radioactive material into the environment, money can't be an excuse for inaction.

Congress and the federal government must provide the funding needed to address the leaking tank, to verify the condition of the remaining tanks, to build additional interim storage or take other necessary steps to prevent further releases, and to get the long-term solution - the waste treatment plant - completed without further delays.

It is their moral and legal obligation to the citizens of the Northwest, and I will do everything in my power to make sure they live up to that.

Media Contacts

Jaime Smith
Governor Inslee’s Communications Office