The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a statement Friday insisting a hydrogen gas release at Hanford last month was not an unexpected event. But the DOE does not challenge KING 5’s exclusive report disputing the duration of the potentially dangerous release.
On Thursday, KING 5 challenged the DOE’s assessment of the March 15th release, which stated it was an expected 36-hour event. Based on information from confidential sources, KING 5 learned the release actually lasted much longer, up to five days.
This is important because a federal panel assigned to oversee the safety of the nation’s defense-related nuclear operations this week issued a report critical of the DOE’s ability to identify gas build-ups in the massive storage tanks and to prevent possible ignitions, which could lead to releases of radioactive materials.
Friday’s DOE statement maintains the tank named AN-105 is one of five double shelled tanks that has regular releases of hydrogen gas, so the March event was not considered unexpected.
KING 5 maintains the duration and intensity of the release elevate it beyond what could be considered “expected.”
Below are the questions submitted by KING 5 and the DOE’s response in its entirety.
Questions submitted by KING5 Environmental Specialist Gary Chittim:
- Please respond to our statement that the duration of the event of was beyond 36 hours.
- Please clarify what is meant by ‘controlled release’ and if this was indeed not a spontaneous GRE.
Please respond to following questions:
- Does the primary exhauster in AN-farm have monitoring equipment, such as that in farms AY/AZ, that indicates the degree of air flow in cubic feet going through each tank? Do the AP, AW and SY farms have that equipment?
- Are there plans to install or update such equipment?
- Does manually increasing air flow to one tank in AN farm reduce flow to other tanks?
- Did tank AN-107 experience a gas buildup when air flow was increased to AN-105 during the event beginning March 16th?
The Department of Energy's response to above questions:
All of Hanford’s underground waste tanks generate hydrogen gas to some degree since the radioactivity in the waste releases hydrogen from basic nuclear reactions. The routine release of hydrogen bubbles from the waste into the headspace (open space) of Hanford’s tanks is actively managed in order to safely operate the tank farms. Tank AN-105 is one of five Hanford double shell tanks that has regularly released hydrogen. The gas release in March was not unexpected and levels of hydrogen did not accumulate anywhere close to the concentration that might pose a risk if an ignition source were present. Tank Farms have controls in place to eliminate ignition sources for these tanks. Double-shell tanks are equipped with ventilation and monitoring systems, and workers routinely take air samples to monitor gas generation. These systems prevent excessive amounts of gas from accumulating. The Department is developing upgrades to the systems used to vent, monitor and measure gas generation, consistent with recommendations by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The Department remains committed to the safety of our workers, the public and the environment.