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Gov. Inslee to Tour Hanford This Wednesday – Seeking Answers to Leaking Tanks

Gov. Inslee to tour Hanford this week
(Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

Gov. Jay Inslee plans to tour the Hanford site to gather information about the six leaky tanks and others that could pose a significant problem down the road.

While U.S. Dept. of Energy officials say current leaking tanks present no direct health hazard, if left untreated the waste could cause significant problems in the future. Inslee will be spending several hours touring the site, including the Waste Treatment Plant, T and C tank farms, and a new groundwater pumping and treating facility.

Since his inauguration, Inslee has paid a significant amount of attention to the site. The new DOE information came about after re-examining testing data from the tanks. Because the tanks are too hazardous to peer inside, a variety of methods are used to determine the levels of sludge and ooze inside them. If levels drops, DOE officials are pretty sure they’re leaking.

Groundwater tests, dry wells and test drills are done all over the site to monitor contamination in the soil. So far, the waste is nowhere near the Columbia River or other important resources. Inslee says the leaks reinforce the need for a vitrification plant and a strategy to stop the leaks.

Inslee has favored building more double-shell tanks to transfer the waste.

One of the issues facing Hanford scientists is that most of the liquid waste has been removed from all of the 177 tanks at the site. What is left is a mixture of hard crystals, brittle material and sludge – ranging from the consistency of peanut butter to thick Slurpee. These elements are harder to transfer.

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