(OILPRICE) — Hanford, Washington, was, along with Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the two Manhattan Project nuclear plants that provided fissile material for the bombs dropped on Japan that ended World War Two.
The past is coming back to haunt the site, as last week Washington governor Jay Inslee characterized news about a major leak of highly toxic sludge from a single-wall storage tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation as a “perfect radioactive storm.”
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation currently houses 149 single-wall nuclear waste storage tanks, along with 28 newer tanks with double walls. They contain residue from decades of refining plutonium for nuclear weapons, roughly 56 million gallons of highly radioactive waste in aged and corroded underground storage tanks. Since World War II, Hanford Nuclear Reservation facilities have leached roughly one million gallons of radioactive waste has leached into the surrounding soil and groundwater beside the Columbia River, with specialists estimating that the newly discovered leak may be adding an additional 150-300 gallons a year, though no one knows when it began. In 1989 the Department of Energy assumed responsibility for safely disposing of this waste, which threatens to leak into the bordering Columbia River and affect downstream industry, habitat and human health.