Inslee demands feds clean up nuclear waste from leaking Hanford tanks

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 8:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 9:00 PM

The sprawling Hanford Nuclear Reservation is full of surprises, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee doesn't like any of them.

One week he learned that an underground storage tank on the reservation was leaking. Seven days later he learned there are actually six tanks leaking.

Inslee took his case directly to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in Washington, DC, last week. He said this is a personal issue to him and he's not going to let these leaking tanks keep damaging the state. He wants them drained immediately.

Inslee said he fears for the safety of the rest of the older 149 waste tanks holding millions of gallons of high level nuclear material.

"Once the department actually applied the appropriate way of analyzing the data, they concluded there were six tanks leaking. So I am very suspicious of the integrity of single shelled tanks," said Inslee.

The Federal Energy Department is in the process of slowly transferring waste from old tanks into newer ones, but Inslee made it clear, he wants all the leaking tanks drained now.

"We're going to insist on a program that will remove the radioactive material from the leaking tanks and find a solution as quickly as humanly possible," said Inslee.

Energy officials say they only have so much room to store wasted from the old tanks, and they must keep a million gallon space open for emergencies.

Inslee said it's time, at any cost, for the department to make room, either by shipping waste out or building new tanks.

"It is our belief that in order to have confidence that we accommodate glitches or difficulties on the line that that has to be under consideration," said Inslee.

Building new tanks would be extremely expensive, but Inslee said that’s what he wants to be considered. He said he wants the end to the problems at Hanford, and he’s going to do whatever he can to get that done.

And while these leakers pose no immediate public threat, Inslee said he’s very upset that it took this long to find out there are six leaking tanks.

KING 5's Gary Chittim contributed to this report.

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