23 Feb 2013

Nuclear tanks in United States leaking waste

9:02 pm on 23 February 2013

Six tanks at a nuclear site in the United States are leaking radioactive waste.

The governor's office in Washington state said the tanks at Hanford Nuclear Reservation were leaking but it did not pose an immediate public health risk.

Governor Jay Inslee described the situation as "disturbing".

The BBC reports that nearly 200 ageing containers hold millions of litres of radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

"There is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles (8km) from the Columbia River," Mr Inslee said in a statement.

"But nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians," he added.

Last week, a leak was reported in one of the storage tanks. Officials said it was leaking at a rate of up 1,136 litres per year.

They said that monitoring tests had not detected higher radiation levels near the tanks.

Established as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943, Hanford was home to the world's first full-scale plutonium production facility.

It was part of America's bid to build the world's first nuclear weapon during World War II.

The site produced the plutonium for the bomb that was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Production at Hanford continued until 1989.

Under a costly clean-up proposal, the waste will eventually be treated in a special plant. It will then be safely disposed of underground in stainless steel canisters.