Jeff T. Green/Getty Images/AFP
A tank containing highly radioactive waste may be leaking into the soil at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (the US’s most contaminated nuclear site) in Washington state, employees have told media.
State and federal officials are investigating reports that workers detected elevated radioactivity levels under tank AY-102 during a routine inspection on Thursday.
According to technician Mike Geffre, who works for contractor Washington River Protection Solutions, an inspection was made of a pit under the tank. Its water samples had an 800,000-count of radioactivity and a high dose rate, which means that workers must reduce time spent in the area.
“Anything above a 500 count is considered contaminated and would have to be disposed of as nuclear waste,” Geffre explained. “Plus, the amount of material we’ve seen from the leak is very small, which means it’s a very strong radioactive isotope.”
If the waste escapes the tank and gets into the soil, it may reach groundwater and potentially the Columbia River.
“This is really, really bad. They are going to pollute the ground and the groundwater with some of the nastiest stuff, and they don’t have a solution for it,” Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Seattle-based advocacy group Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that conducts environmental sampling to monitor for radioactive and chemical contamination, told AP.
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