"This Is Catastrophic" - Thousands Of Gallons Of Radioactive Waste Leak At Nuclear Site

Tyler Durden's picture

The ongoing radioactive leak problems at the Hanford Site, a nuclear storage tank in Washington State, are nothing new.

We first wrote about the ongoing radioative leakage at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, created as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, in 2013.

 

As a reminder, during the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Alas, the site has been leaking ever since, as many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate and Hanford's operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the neighboring Columbia River.

 

Hanford's weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons of high-level radioactive waste, an additional 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath the site and occasional discoveries of undocumented contaminations.

 

The Hanford site represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup. The government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The cleanup is expected to last decades.

However, as Krugman would say, the government was not spending nearly enough, and after a major documented leak in 2013, over the weekend, thousands of gallons of radioactive waste are estimated to have leaked from the Site once again, triggering an alarm and causing one former worker to label it as "catastrophic."

As AP reported, the expanded leak was first detected after an alarm went off at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on Sunday, and on Monday workers were preparing to pump the waste out of the troubled area. They were also trying to determine why the leak became worse.

It’s unclear exactly how much waste spilled out, but estimates place the amount at somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 gallons, according to the Tri-City Herald.

The problem occurred at the double-wall storage tank AY-102, which has the capacity to hold one million gallons of the deadly waste, and which has been leaking since 2011. At the time, the leak was "extremely small", and the waste would dry up almost right after spilling out between the inner and outer walls, leaving a salt-like substance behind.

However, over time the small leak got bigger.

In March, the US Department of Energy began pumping what was left in the storage tank, which originally held some 800,000 gallons of waste. However, after leak detector alarms sounded early Sunday morning, crews at Hanford lowered a camera into the two-foot-wide space between the tank's inner and outer walls. They discovered 8.4 inches of radioactive and chemically toxic waste has seeped into the annulus.


 

Pumping work on the tank has been halted as officials reevaluate the situation and figure out how to get to the leaked radioactive waste. It’s possible that the leak was made worse when the pumping began, but that has not been confirmed.

 

Taking a page right out of the TEPCO playbook, the U.S. Department of Energy released a statement Monday calling the leak an "anticipated" outcome of an ongoing effort to empty the tank in question. The Washington state Department of Ecology said, "There is no indication of waste leaking into the environment or risk to the public at this time."

But one former tank farm worker said the leak should be considered a major problem.

"This is catastrophic. This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors (to hold waste safely from people and the environment),” said former Hanford worker Mike Geffre.

He should know: Geffre is the worker who first discovered that the tank, known as AY-102, was failing in 2011. In a 2013 series, “Hanford’s Dirty Secrets," the KING 5 Investigators exposed that the government contractor in charge of the tanks, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), ignored Geffre’s findings for nearly a year. The company finally admitted the problem in 2012.

Another problem: tank AY-102 is just one of 28 double-shell tanks at Hanford (there are 177 underground tanks total) holding nuclear byproducts from nearly four decades of plutonium production on the Hanford Nuclear Site, located near Richland. Initially the plutonium was used to fuel the bombed dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in World War II.

The new leak poses problems on several fronts. The outer shell of AY-102 does not have the exhaust or filtration system needed to keep the dangerous gases created by the waste in check. Workers have been ordered to wear full respiratory safety gear in the area, but the risk remains. And unlike Fukushima where cleanup crews are aware of the danger, in Hanford virtually nobody is aware of the dangers of the radioactive seepage.

 

"The hazards to workers just went up by a factor of 10,” said Geffre.

The breakdown calls into question the viability of three other double-shell tanks at Hanford that have the exact design of AY-102. It is not clear how many of them may have comparable "extremely small" leaks which have gotten bigger, and even if there was it is likely that the DOD would not reveal them.

"The primary tanks weren't designed to stage waste like this for so many years,” said a current worker. “There’s always the question, ‘Are the outer shells compromised’”?

Oh, and let's not forget that the accumulation of waste in the outer shell also means "the deadliest substance on earth is that much closer to the ground surrounding the tank. And currently there is no viable plan in place to take care of it."

Or, as Ben Bernanke would say, the Plutonium is contained.

"It makes me sad that they didn’t believe me that there was a problem in 2011,” said Geffre. “I wish they would have listened to me and reacted faster. Maybe none of this would be happening now. It’s an example of a culture at Hanford of 'We don’t have problems here. We’re doing just fine.’ Which is a total lie,” said Geffre.

Dear Mike, if you think that is bad, you should see what they say about the "markets"...

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Full clip from King5 after the jump


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RogerMud's picture

that sad looking DOE sign in the leading pic kinda sums up it all up.

MagicHandPuppet's picture

"No one could have seen this coming." /sarc

Wait What's picture

more proof that whenever the US government gets involved, you can always expect to be left with seepage around the annulus.

Fukushima Sam's picture

Remember folks, a glowing smile is the best protection from the effects of radiation!

wee-weed up's picture

Damn, the guy who does sign maintenance must have succumbed long ago.

svayambhu108's picture

The future is bright, fluorescent bright.

NidStyles's picture

They should have been using Thorium...

The Saint's picture

Too bad it is so far inland.  The coming Tsumami would have cleaned it up for them if it was within 5 miles of the coast.

y3maxx's picture

America is imploding at so many nuclear locations levels...it may be worse overall in the US than in Japan.

jbvtme's picture

"everyone relax please":  the mayor of hanford while downing jagermeister and plutonium shots for a photo op.

eforce's picture

@wee-weed up

I guess it's a sign of things to come.

SuperRay's picture

Mind was blown reading 60,000 nuclear weapons. That is just fucking stupid and wasteful

Oh regional Indian's picture

Tis a long and strange and twisted tale, this tale of DukeNukem!

A wholly judeomericn establishment....what lies below the vocers?

And what lies...

long ago...

https://aadivaahan.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/nuclear-american-cross-other...

NoDecaf's picture

Whatever destroys the earth, I just want to live long enough to pump a truck load of this crap into some elite MFer's bunker.

salvadordaly's picture

Fucking humans! That’s what’s destroying the earth. Down vote away! Let’s genetically modify some mosquitos to clean this mess up! Good lord, quit modifying nature and things would be fine! I'm sure that "nuclur" energy was the best god damn thing ever, as long as nothing gets spilled, or an earthquake. Then what happens? It gets spilled or there is an earthquake! We are so fucking brilliant are we not? Humans fucking shit up since, well since the beginning!

Dolar in a vortex's picture

"This is catastrophic!"

Good old American hyperbole.

On the other side of the pond, the Brits might have said, "We may want to look at this".

Battlefield USA's picture

Here is a million thumbs up for you.

Ironic that mankind's thirst to modify and/or harness the power of mother nature, will kill us all.

AngrySparky's picture

You are human? Kill yourself... do it now... otherwise your existence will continue to kill the Earth... KILL YOURSELF NOW !!!!

zvzzt's picture

Dont worry too much about earth - she'll survive. Worry about humans, we most certainly won't (even with the high-end bunkers).

VAD's picture

This had nothing to do with nuclear energy production.  It is nuclear bomb production, which is a function of humans....government employed humans.  So the problem is government.  As usual.   But, hey, at least it's expensive.

MacGruber's picture

This should be criminal. These tanks were leaking back in 1997. A rep from the DOE came and spoke at my college and he said 77 of the tanks were leaking, even the double walled. Thousands of gallons were said to be missing in one (1 inch of the million gallon tanks equals 10,000 gallons). One was called the "burp tank" because it was generating hydrogen from the extreme radiation so fast that the tank would roll over like a pond in the spring. They were afraid the tank would explode so they vent it. The radiation in all the tanks is so high it cooks a camera in minutes. This is a shitshow and the fucknuts that built these in the first place should be hung. They knew what they were doing but fucked the western seaboard because the cold war was on and that meant do whatever.

Twee Surgeon's picture

Everything is leaking now.

Mintcoin's picture

Hanford leaks several gallons a day right into the Columbia River. The fish are all contaminated. Then they use the water to irrigate the crops. The Tri-Cities just down river are full of cancer, etc. And for $2 billion a year, as you can see, they  hardly do anything. 

vollderlerby's picture

For $2 billion a year, there should be enough left in the budget to PAINT A FUCKING SIGN every now and then.

sdmjake's picture

Actually that sign was freshly painted 3 months ago... /s

MacGruber's picture

This should be criminal. These tanks were leaking back in 1997. A rep from the DOE came and spoke at my college and he said 77 of the tanks were leaking, even the double walled. Thousands of gallons were said to be missing in one (1 inch of the million gallon tanks equals 10,000 gallons). One was called the "burp tank" because it was generating hydrogen from the extreme radiation so fast that the tank would roll over like a pond in the spring. They were afraid the tank would explode so they vent it. The radiation in all the tanks is so high it cooks a camera in minutes. This is a shitshow and the fucknuts that built these in the first place should be hung. They knew what they were doing but fucked the western seaboard because the cold war was on and that meant do whatever.

MacGruber's picture

This should be criminal. These tanks were leaking back in 1997. A rep from the DOE came and spoke at my college and he said 77 of the tanks were leaking, even the double walled. Thousands of gallons were said to be missing in one (1 inch of the million gallon tanks equals 10,000 gallons). One was called the "burp tank" because it was generating hydrogen from the extreme radiation so fast that the tank would roll over like a pond in the spring. They were afraid the tank would explode so they vent it. The radiation in all the tanks is so high it cooks a camera in minutes. This is a shitshow and the fucknuts that built these in the first place should be hung. They knew what they were doing but fucked the western seaboard because the cold war was on and that meant do whatever.

MacGruber's picture

<p>This should be criminal. These tanks were leaking back in 1997. A rep from the DOE came and spoke at my college and he said 77 of the tanks were leaking, even the double walled. Thousands of gallons were said to be missing in one (1 inch of the million gallon tanks equals 10,000 gallons). One was called the "burp tank" because it was generating hydrogen from the extreme radiation so fast that the tank would roll over like a pond in the spring. They were afraid the tank would explode so they vent it. The radiation in all the tanks is so high it cooks a camera in minutes. This is a shitshow and the fucknuts that built these in the first place should be hung. They knew what they were doing but fucked the western seaboard because the cold war was on and that meant do whatever.</p>

Dolar in a vortex's picture

Wow!

The ever elusive quadrupal post! Congratulations!

Dave Whiteman's picture

The White Man has not been in charge of the government for over 100 years.

booboo's picture

I ain'ts no rocket surgeon buts ifin they cans preps a lp tank to buri wit a galvanic anode and tar tape and haves it lasted fer 50 yeers yud thinks maybe some pointy headerd einsteens culd buri a fukin nuklar filled tank and makes it lasted fer 100 yeers. Fuk ams I the onli one heer wit a brains. goverdments is gonna kills us all fer fuk sakes.

ForTheWorld's picture

I don't know what you just said man... but you is special.

Nobody For President's picture

Yu gots that right, booboo. Gotta remember, them gubermint fucks ain't never dug no hole thimselfs. they jist write the specifacasions fer the hole.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Those tanks are like credit cards. When you've wrecked one you transfer your balance to another.

Dolar in a vortex's picture

Bullish for the local economy!

Need more tank builders and materials.

Antifaschistische's picture

I use dual wall containment when I'm carrying paint in my car!!!   Put the paint in a bucket so if it spills you're covered!

Am I the only one that thinks the most deadly toxic substance on the planet deserves a FEW MORE DAMN CONTAINMENT WALLS...HOW ABOUT 7 TO START WITH

HowdyDoody's picture

Come on guys, get your priorities right. There are still a few countries without US military bases, US-funded regime change is happening in only 7 countires, and there are shooting wars in only 4 countries. And here you are whining about a little rust here and there.

SilverRhino's picture

Maybe I'm just smoking crack but would it be too freakin hard to just freeze all that crap and store it in a place like Chicken Alaska (google it, it's literally the middle of fucking nowhere) 

 

Or we could store in this really crowded place called northern Mali.

 

Nobody For President's picture

How about the basement at 33 Liberty Street, New York City?

vollderlerby's picture

Spread it out a little.  How about those 5 sites?  Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Hofuf

Four chan's picture

this is one motherfucker of a story.

Implied Violins's picture

Aw, it's just one among many:

- Fukushima
- Chernobyl
- Hanford
- St. Luis garbage fire
- Nuke plant near New York

Not to mention Bayou Corne, Deep Horizon, Aliso Canyon, that Colorado river spill, Flint water scandal (and others), the Texas gas leak (bigger than Aliso Canyon)...and almost all relatively recently.

Question is, how many do we NOT know of that are happening now - and is this all just happenstance??

Poundsand's picture

Was a high school janitor out there when they built those tanks.  Everyone knew that one day they would fail, everyone!  If someone goes back and looks at what the Tri-Cycle Herald wrote back then, you would see that these are all way past their expected life expectancy and that 'the solution' for what to do with the stuff was just around the corner.  Science!

Young Buckethead's picture

There is a lot of shit buried at Hanford:

'Fallout From Toxic Beagle Experiments : Davis residents feel betrayed by how nuclear tests occurred at kennels. Radiation has leaked into the air and ground.'

DAVIS, Calif. — "The radioactive beagles are long gone, their frozen carcasses hauled off to a nuclear waste dump in Washington state along with 140 tons of radioactive dog sewage."

"But on the edge of the UC Davis campus, about two miles outside the city, sits a contaminated ghost town of empty kennels, deserted research laboratories and aging landfills surrounded by barbed-wire.

The secluded Department of Energy facility--where UC scientists fed beagles radioactive chow in a 30-year study of nuclear fallout--is so toxic that it is proposed for listing as a federal Superfund site."

http://articles.latimes.com/1994-02-08/news/mn-20483_1_uc-davis

 

'828 Radioactive Beagles Are Buried At Hanford'

"Hundreds of dead dogs, the remains of a Cold War radiation experiment, were shipped to the Hanford nuclear reservation for burial last month. Coming next: 17.5 tons of their radioactive excrement. The 828 dead beagles, shipped from California in 55-gallon drums, were buried in trenches at Hanford. Their remains had been stored in freezers at the Institute of Toxicology and Environmental Health on the University of California campus at Davis. The last dog died at the age of 18 1/2 in 1986, 27 years after government-funded beagle experiments began. The beagle cleanup, expected to cost about $22 million, is part of a nationwide Department of Energy effort to clean up radiation contamination at university labs."

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1990-10-17/news/9010171059_1_beagles...

shovelhead's picture

Now you know why beagles always look sad.

They remember their fallen brothers who were victims of the Cold War.

They will show no mercy when The Great Rising comes.

PT's picture

Help! UnderDog! We need you!