Six underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington state were recently found to be leaking radioactive waste, but there is no immediate risk to human health, state and federal officials said on Friday.While most of our readers understand that there's no connection between these tanks full of defense waste and the used nuclear fuel that's stored safely at plant sites around the country, that hasn't stopped some members of the media from coming to that conclusion -- something that James Conca at Forbes ably pointed out over the weekend.
The seeping waste adds to decades of soil contamination caused by leaking storage tanks at Hanford in the past and threatens to further taint groundwater below the site but poses no near-term danger of polluting the Columbia River, officials said.
The newly discovered leaks were revealed by Governor Jay Inslee a week after the U.S. Energy Department disclosed that radioactive waste was found to be escaping from one tank at Hanford.
Inslee said he was informed on Friday by outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu that a total of six of the aging, single-walled tanks were leaking radioactive waste.
"There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than 5 miles from the Columbia River," Inslee said in a statement released by his office. "But nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians."
To recap some quick takeaways:
- Commercial reactor fuel is solid material, not liquid like the material at Hanford.
- Commercial reactor fuel is securely stored in steel-lined concrete vaults or steel and concrete containers above ground.
- Storage facilities at nuclear energy facilities are licensed and inspected by independent regulators.
For more on how the industry safely stores used nuclear fuel, please check out this interactive graphic.