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Head of company overseeing leaking nuclear tanks at Hanford to step down

U.S. Department Of Energy

The disposal facility for mixed and low-level radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is shown in an aerial image.

The head of the contracting company responsible for containment tanks found to be leaking radioactive liquid at the Hanford, Wash., Nuclear Reservation announced his retirement Wednesday.

The head of the contractor overseeing cleanup operations at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina will replace Mike Johnson, president and project manager of Washington River Protection Solutions, or WRPS, Johnson said in an email message to employees obtained by NBC station KING of Seattle.

Johnson gave no reason for his retirement, which he said would take effect at the end of June.

WRPS has been the subject of extensive federal scrutiny since it was learned in February that at least six of 177 underground tanks housing highly radioactive nuclear waste at the site were leaking. The tanks are believed to be losing about three gallons of waste liquid a day, the Tri-City Herald of Richland reported after Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., toured the site late last month.

The Herald also obtained Johnson's message Wednesday.

The Energy Department is building a $12.3 billion plant at Hanford to convert the dangerous waste to a stable form, but that project is years behind schedule.

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