Inslee on Hanford leak: 'We will not tolerate any leaks'

The federal government said a tank at Hanford was leaking high level radioactive waste. There was no emergency and no immediate health threats. Governor Jay Inslee released this statement Friday afternoon:

Secretary Chu called me this morning with the news of a newly leaking single shell tank at Hanford.

I am alarmed and deeply concerned by this news. This was a problem we thought was under control, years ago, when the liquids were pumped from the tanks and the sludge was stabilized. We can't just leave 149 single-shell tanks with high-level radioactive liquid and sludge siting in the ground, for decades after their design life.

Let me be clear: Washington State has a zero tolerance policy on radioactive leakage. We will not tolerate any leaks of this material to the environment.

Fortunately, there is no immediate public health risk. The newly discovered leak may not hit the groundwater for many years, and we have a groundwater treatment system in place that provides a last defense for the river. However, the fact that this tank is one of the farthest from the river is not an excuse for delay. It is a call to act now.

I am appreciative of Secretary Chu's personal attention to this matter, and know he will deploy all technically-possible solutions to address the leaking tank. I will meet with the Secretary next week in DC, to hear about the Department's progress on stopping the leak and preventing any further tank leaks at Hanford.

This news is a sharp reminder, a wakeup call, that we can't be complacent, or waiver in any way, on our nation's commitment to clean up Hanford. I know this is a time of tight budgets, but with an active leak of high-level radioactive material into the environment, money can't be an excuse for inaction.

Congress and the federal government must provide the funding needed to address the leaking tank, to verify the condition of the remaining tanks, to build additional interim storage or take other necessary steps to prevent further releases, and to get the long-term solution, the waste treatment plant, completed without further delays.

It is their moral and legal obligation to the citizens of the Northwest and I will do everything in my power to make sure they live up to that.