For some time, tank AY-102 at Hanford has been paid a lot of attention. Now it's going to get even more.

The U.S. Department of Energy said  workers detected higher-than-normal levels of radioactivity underneath the double-shell tank after an inspection Thursday.

Last year, video showed some slight leakage of hazardous waste between the walls of the double-shelled tank, but it was not significant. Officials continued to monitor the leak, but Thursday was the first time high radiation levels were detected below the huge container.

AY-102 is one of a number of double-shelled tanks built decades ago when the older single-shell tanks were found to be leaking. Virtually all the hazardous waste was pumped into these newer tanks, but now they are years past their designed lifetime.

Workers use video and radiation monitoring equipment to test the levels of waste in the tanks. If even the slightest decreases are seen in levels, radiation detection equipment can often help pinpoint areas around the tanks where leaks occur.

Due to the extremely hazardous nature of the waste, direct view monitoring is impossible.  It has to be done by video cameras, radiation equipment and additional external monitoring devices.

A photo from the DOE, courtesy of our news partner KNDU-TV, shows circled areas where workers found the presence of additional waste materials that were not there during the last test. That, combined with the higher radiation levels below the tank, lead them to believe the waste could be leaking into the ground.

(Photo courtesy of KNDU-TV)