Flammable Gas In Hanford Waste Tanks Concerns Nuclear Watchdog

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RICHLAND, Wash. – A federal nuclear watchdog is pushing Hanford managers to come up with a fix for flammable gas that may be building up in underground waste tanks. This is the latest round of criticism of the nuclear reservation in southeast Washington.

In a recent recommendation to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says a significant flammable gas accident would have huge radiological consequences.

The safety agency’s managers are worried about a buildup of hydrogen in the tanks. The letter says an accident would endanger workers, contaminate portions of the tank farms and seriously derail the cleanup mission at Hanford.

Specifically, the defense board wants better venting systems and real-time monitoring equipment on each tank. The nuclear safety watchdog says although Energy Department officials do take the risks seriously, there has been no real progress and the “schedule for upgrades continues to slip.”

Hanford’s underground tanks are full of the sludge and a toxic brew leftover from plutonium production during World War II and the Cold War. Carrie Meyer, an Energy department spokeswoman, says her agency is looking into the matter.

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Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommendation

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Tanks at the Hanford Site. Photo via Dept. of Energy hide caption

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