Hanford Managers Focus on Flammable Gas in Waste Tanks

Nov 8, 2013

Managers and scientists are working against the clock to solve a new possible problem at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

How much sludge can be dumped into a double-shelled radioactive waste tank before flammable gas might build up in a big bubble?

At a group of waste tanks called the C-Farm, workers are pumping the radioactive sludge out these old single-shelled tanks into the more stable double-hulled ones This radioactive witch’s brew constantly generates hydrogen and other flammable gases.

Scientists and engineers aren’t sure how much the newer massive double-hulled underground tanks can hold before the sludge burps up a major flammable gas bubble. All the sludge in the tan farm must be transferred by next September under a legally-binding deadline.

“That issue can be solved long-term, but from a perspective of meeting the 2014 milestone and being complete with C-Farm, it’s critical to solve to make that milestone,” said Tom Fletcher, assistant manager for Hanford’s tank farms.

Fletcher says that deadline to cleanup C-Farm is possibly in jeopardy. There’s a total of 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge at Hanford. That’s the leftovers from making plutonium for bombs during World War II and the Cold War.