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Possible leak at Hanford nuclear site, no immediate threat seen

Rachel La Corte
Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee says it will likely take a few days to confirm whether radioactive waste has leaked through the outer shell of a double-hulled underground tank at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Earlier Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy disclosed it detected heightened radioactivity levels beneath a tank that holds some of the nation's worst nuclear waste. Inslee said he spoke directly to the new secretary of energy to say how unhappy he is with agency's pace of stabilizing half a dozen different leaking tanks.

"We need to insist—and will insist—that the department accelerate their plan to remediate this waste in that tank and these other leaking tanks," Inslee said. "This has to happen even if there wasn't a leak in that second shell. It's owed to the citizens of the state of Washington. The current plan by the department is seriously deficient."

State officials in both Oregon and Washington stress that the detection of radioactivity outside this latest tank poses no immediate threat to public health. The possibly leaking tank is positioned in the center of the nuclear reservation, and is surrounded by many square miles of desert.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.