First visit to Hanford since leak reported

RICHLAND, Wash. -- The planned tour of the Hanford site took on a whole new urgency Tuesday morning.

Senator Ron Wyden is now chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee. It's his job to get up to speed on what goes on here, including what's happening with Tank 111.

Last Friday, the Department of Energy confirmed hundreds of gallons of radioactive material had leaked from the single shell tank.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said, "That's one of the reasons that I'm here, to get the latest assessment from those who are living and dealing with it day in and day out."

The Department of Energy insists public health is not at risk. The leak was discovered when a tank sensor was found sitting on top of sludge, not floating. A video camera is now set up inside the tank to give a clearer picture of where the material may be going.

It's still early in the investigation but officials say the waste didn't evaporate. The Department of Energy is still not reporting any higher levels of radiation.

Despite his lack of deep knowledge on the site, the Senator knows this is a prime concern.

"There's no question the Department is going to have to focus on those issues," he said.

Those issues include making sure the dangerous material at Hanford stays far from our groundwater.

Since the visit was scheduled well before the word of the leak the Senator says one of his main goals in coming was to be adequately prepared to confirm a new Secretary of Energy.

Current Secretary Steven Chu recently said he was stepping down. He will remain in the job until his successor is named.