Newly released documents indicate there are "significant construction flaws" that could lead to additional leaks in many of the newer double-walled storage tanks at Washington state's Hanford nuclear waste complex's newer, .
Hanford just happens to store about two-thirds - some 53 million gallons - of the nation's high-level radioactive waste, and the most recently detected issues are only the latest in a long, growing and concerning list of flubs at the complex, which has been plagued by design problems and construction delays.
Back in 2012, once of the site's 28 double-walled storage tanks (constructed during the 1960s to the 1980s) was found to be leaking, and despite officials downplaying the issue as an isolated case, new documents show surveys performed for the U.S. Department of Energy found at least six more tanks had defects that could lead to leaks. The documents also show 13 additional tanks might be compromised. For the mathematically challenged, that's 20 massive tanks potentially soon oozing radioactive waste, waste that could find its way into the groundwater.
Officials, though, say the leaking material poses no immediate risk to public safety or the environment because it would take perhaps years for the dangerous waste to reach groundwater. Their claims don't reassure us.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., shares our concerns.
"It is time for the (DOE) to stop hiding the ball and pretending that the situation at Hanford is being effectively managed," he wrote Friday in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
It's also time for the government to realize more resources are needed, something the Barack Obama administration apparently doesn't recognize
In the administration's proposed fiscal 2015 budget, released Tuesday, it calls for the DOE to cut cleanup costs nationwide by $135 million. How that affects Hanford? Its budget will come in at just less than $2.15 billion, down from about $2.2 billion this year and far less than the $3.2 billion a recently released schedule and cost report for Hanford shows is needed to meet cleanup obligations.
Cleanup certainly comes with a huge price tag, but the cost of not completing the job adequately and timely is incalculable - and its effects virtually permanent.