U.S. Markets closed

Now 6 Tanks Are Leaking Radioactive Waste At America's Most Contaminated Site

Michael Kelley

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says six underground tanks at the Hanford Nuclear reservation are leaking, the Associated Press reports.

The problem, which Inslee called "disturbing," has been brewing for a while.

Last week NPR reported that a single tank at the site — the most contaminated nuclear waste site in the U.S. — was leaking, and  Inslee released  a statement  saying a single-shell tank was slowly losing between 150 and 300 gallons of highly radioactive  sludge  each year.

There are 177 tanks holding nuclear waste at the Hanford site, 149 of which are single shelled. All have outlived their 20-year life expectancy.

The site,  part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, was built  to prepare plutonium for atomic bombs in the 1940s. The tanks hold millions of gallons of radioactive stew.

Federal officials spend $2 billion a year — one-third of its national budget for nuclear cleanup  — on Hanford, which is dangerously close to the Columbia River.  

Adding to the problem, the  impending sequester will force layoffs at Hanford and could even stop work there.

Inslee termed the combination of the leak and the budget cuts the "perfect radioactive storm," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

A question asked last week by Northwest News Network reporter Anna King —  Where will officials put the toxic waste?  — becomes even more relevant now.

More From Business Insider