Turning Over a Nuke Leak
Within three years, dangerous tritium contamination from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state could leach into the Columbia River, Hanford officials say. Last year, surveys found tritium, known to cause birth defects, at concentrations 90 times above the federal drinking water standard in a nearby well that lies 3.5 miles from the Columbia. By last month, the level of tritium in the well’s water had increased fourfold. Tritium is one of the fastest-moving radionuclides and its movement may signal that the spread of far more deadly nuclear contamination is not far behind. The 560-square-mile Hanford reservation, where the feds produced plutonium for nuclear bombs for more than 40 years, is the most contaminated spot in North America, and under the most optimistic scenario, the Energy Department says it can clean up only 10 percent of Hanford’s leaky tanks by 2018.