Various news sources are reporting that as the nuclear waste containment tanks at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in Washington State age well beyond their 50 year service life leaks are increasing with at least one tank in a condition that could charitably be described as complete failure (archived). A United States Department of Energy Politruk described the horrific outcome as an "anticipated" side effect of efforts to empty the failed tank. The Hanford site is a part of Manhattan Project National Historical Park and administered jointly by the National Park Service and the Department of Energy.
The Hanford site was the center of United States plutonium production from World War II through the end of the Cold War operating 9 reactors at its peak in the 1960's. In addition to tens of millions of gallons of liquid high level radioactive waste, tens of millions of cubic feet of solid nuclear waste, hundreds of square miles of contaminated groundwater, and more than a hundred submarine nuclear reactor sections the National Park also has a waste vitirfication plant under construction that was supposed to be completed and begin operations in 2012.
Estimates offered by Department Politruks in 2008 supposed that if the cleanup of the Hanford site did not proceed according to their schedule contamination would reach the Columbia River within 12-50 years. It has been 8 years and cleanup efforts are not only lagging behind the schedule the mess is actively becoming less contained.