The Governor of Washington has stated Friday that an underground container is leaking radioactive material, prompting demands for action and for guarantees of safety for nearby residents.
The tank designed to store nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, about 400 miles southeast of Seattle, was leaking at a rate of around 300 gallons per year, Gov. Jay Inslee revealed in a statement.
"This is an extremely toxic substance and we have to have a zero tolerance policy for leaks of radioactive material into the ground, and potentially groundwater of the state of Washington," Inslee said.
While state and government officials were scrambling to address the problem the governor tried to ease the public's anxiety by insisting, while the leak is deeply troublesome, at this point it did not pose any serious health risks.
Inslee furthered by stressing the fact that clean-up of the site will not be completed in the near future and prepared residents for a task that could take years.
"At the same time that I am making clear that this is a long-term, very significant concern of the state of Washington, it is not a short-term concern," Inslee said. "We have been assured by people that I do trust that this poses no immediate threat to ... health. It would be quite some time before these leaks could breach groundwater or the Columbia River."
The U.S. Department of Energy explained that only one tank of the 177 storage containers at the 586-square mile site, was found to have decreasing levels of nuclear material and that so far there has been no detection of increased radiation levels in and around the government site.
Hanford was created during the early 1940's to be used as a staging ground for the development of a nuclear bomb. Hanford was credited with developing the enriched plutonium that was used when the United States became the first country to use a nuclear weapon for war purposes.