Hanford cleanup hits snag with double-shell tank - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hanford cleanup hits snag with double-shell tank

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RICHLAND, Wash. - The double-shell tank that is leaking on the Hanford site is called AY-102. It was the very first double-shell tank built in the 1960's. It holds over 800,000 gallons of waste and some of that is leaking out.

"This is a top priority of the department. The number one priority is safety of the public, the environment and the worker," said tank farm manager Tom Fletcher.

Luckily, the leak is contained within the inner and outer walls of the tank.

"The primary tank is slowly leaking waste into the annulus. We'll continue to work with our regulators and determine the best path forward in how to deal with AY102," said Lori Gamache of the Office of River Protection.

"The path forward really is a collaborative approach with the Washington State Department of Ecology to determine what all the options are and what is the best solution for Hanford as a whole," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said there are a number of options to deal with this leak. One idea is to pump it out immediately. For now, plans are in place to watch six other tanks that have similar construction and process history more closely.

"We're going to go back into those tanks again and make a 100% visual pass of those to ensure that we don't have any other tanks that are seeing an anomaly like we're seeing in AY102," Fletcher said.

He's optimistic, though. After finding the leak, boxes of records were pulled to check out the construction history and it appears there were challenges when AY-102 was built.

"An example of that is 36% weld rate rejection in this tank, since this was the first tank. And then when you go to the subsequent, AY101, that rejection rate dropped to 10% so there were challenges in construction and it's apparent that lessons were learned and applied to the subsequent tanks," Fletcher said.

The material was discovered during 'routine surveillance of tank AY-102. Fletcher said changes could be made in how they check the tanks: how often and the process by which it's done.