Thousands of gallons of radioactive waste are estimated to have leaked at a Manhattan Project-era nuclear storage tank in Washington State over the weekend, triggering an alarm and causing one former worker to label it as “catastrophic.“
The expanded leak was first detected after an alarm went off at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on Sunday, and on Monday workers were preparing to pump the waste out of the troubled area, AP reported. They were also trying to determine why the leak became worse.
It’s unclear exactly how much waste spilled out, but estimates place the amount at somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 gallons, according to the Tri-City Herald.
"There is no indication of waste leaking into the environment or risk to the public at this time,”the Washington Department of Ecology said in a statement.
While the Department of Energy called the leak“anticipated” and the state Ecology Department said there was no danger to the public, the former Hanford worker who first discovered the leak had a different analysis.
“This is catastrophic,” Mike Geffre told King5 News.“This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors (to hold waste safely from people and the environment).”
After Geffre first discovered the leak, the government contractor managing the tanks, Washington River Protection Solutions, did not acknowledge the problem until 2012. The state has been pushing the federal government to remove the remaining waste since then, but work didn’t start on the project until last month.