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Potential Leak at Hanford Nuclear Site Under Investigation

Jun 24, 2013

A potential leak at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state is under investigation following an elevated contamination reading.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that the investigation was launched after an elevated contamination reading was taken in the leak detection pit, according to CNN. Although Governor Inslee said the reading does not indicate there is an immediate public health threat, it is still "disturbing news for Washington.”

The leak detection pit is outside and beside a double-shell tank identified as AY-102, CNN reported. "It is not clear yet whether [the] contamination is coming directly from the outer shell of the AY-102, but it must be treated with the utmost seriousness," Inslee said.

In response to the elevated readings, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) assigned engineers to review the contamination source by sampling and conducting a video inspection, which could take several days, according to the governor, CNN reported. The site once produced plutonium for atomic weapons and borders the state’s Columbia River.

"Given the relatively early detection of this potential leak, the river is not at immediate risk of contamination should it be determined that a leak has occurred outside the tank," Inslee said. Meanwhile, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz just visited the site for the first time last week.

Even before learning of a possible leak, Inslee told Moniz he had "serious concerns regarding the pace of addressing the leaking tanks,” noting that, "We will be insisting on an acceleration of remediation of all the tanks, not just AY-102. USDOE has a legal obligation to clean up Hanford and remove or treat that waste, and we ensure that legal obligation is fulfilled," the governor said, according to CNN.

Late last year, Westchester, New York’s Indian Point nuclear plant was deemed unsecure, according to a lawsuit filed at the time.

A security lieutenant at the power complex brought a $1.5 billion lawsuit, which includes claims that Indian Point is unsecure; that staffers are known to watch DVDs, play video games, and sleep while on the clock; and that the facility generally fails its anti-terrorism drills, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

Previously, the Indian Point nuclear plant was deemed the most dangerous in the United States. Should a disaster occur at Indian Point, drinking water supplies to over 11 million people could be at risk, according to a report released by the advocacy group Environment New York. Even a minor problem could leak radioactive contaminants capable of impacting 11.3 million residents, an amount double the capability of any other nuclear facility nationwide.

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