Hanford officials say they've found what appears to be dried material near tank AY-102. It's the oldest of Hanford's 28 double-shelled tanks.
AY-102 was the first tank to ship waste to the treatment plant. But that all stopped when a leak was first discovered in 2011. The tank was loaded with nuclear byproducts: strontium-90, plutonium and cesium-137.
Washington River Protection Solutions confirmed the leak a year later and said, "There was no unknown material in this area of the tank when it was visually inspected in September 2012." That prompted a visit from the Secretary of Energy last summer.
This latest leak brought a news release from the Department of Energy, calling it dried material covering an area 7 feet by 21 inches.
There is no indication that it has leached into the soil beneath the tank. But federal regulations state, if there is a leak, the tank must be removed from service immediately, and waste should be dumped within 24 hours after the detection.
It's been two and a half years since the leak was detected.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has urged the DOE to empty the tank, reiterating what we first heard from their director in May of last year.
"I believe that the federal government has not just a legal, but a moral obligation to clean up the Hanford site," said Maia Bellon. "Our state has inherited a legacy wasted. We are owed, the people of the state of Washington, a cleanup that is expeditious and that is safe."
The Department of Energy's first pumping plan was called unsuitable by the state. It wouldn't clean out the tank until 2019.
Coincidentally, the Department of Ecology will be getting a new pumping plan on Friday.