"Serious Situation" After Tunnel Collapse At WA Nuclear Facility; Evacuation Ordered, No-Fly Zone In Place

Tyler Durden's picture

Update 5: The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports that Gov. Jay Inslee was notified about the tunnel breach by the Energy Department and the White House on Tuesday morning. Inslee called the event “a serious situation.” “Federal, state and local officials are coordinating closely on the response,” Inslee said, said, with the state Ecology Department in close communication with the Energy Department. There were no plans for Inslee, who is making several previously planned stops in Skamania County on Tuesday, to go to Hanford, his staff said.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry had been briefed, federal officials said, adding that “everyone has been accounted for and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., released a statement as well: “Worker safety must be our number one priority, and we need to understand whether there has been any environmental contamination resulting from the subsidence at these tunnels. My thoughts are with the first responders who are working to assess the situation on the ground, monitor any environmental impacts and design next steps for securing the area.”

Update 4: Washington Emergency Management has released a map showing the distances from the incident to various neighborhoods... non-essential employees in 200 East Area have been released. Swing shift north of the WYE Barricade is cancelled.


Update 3: Images of the hole in the roof of the tunnel have been released...


Update 2: An aerial survey midmorning Tuesday showed an opening about 20 feet by 20 feet into the tunnel, which had been covered with about eight feet of soil. As Tri-CityHerald.com reports , the breach could expose the highly radioactive material disposed of in the tunnel to the atmosphere.

No airborne radiation had been detected as of about 10:30 a.m. Radiological surveys were continuing.


Instructions for people to shelter in place were expanded from central Hanford to all of Hanford, including LIGO and the reactor areas along the Columbia River, after the aerial survey. No one is being allowed to enter the site beyond the security barricades.


Earlier in the morning workers near Purex had noticed a 4-foot-by-4-foot depression that was 2 to 4 feet deep over the tunnel.


Workers in Purex were evacuated when the depression was noticed.


About 3,000 workers in central Hanford initially were told to take shelter indoors, including about 1,000 workers at the vitrification plant construction site. Ventilation systems at the vit plant have been turned off as part of the emergency procedure and equipment that could generate heat have powered down.

The DOE announced that secretary Perry is aware of the incident and that there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release.

Meanwhile, Private pilots in the area have been told to avoid flying over Hanford. The Hanford Patrol is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to put a formal air restriction in place until the FAA can confirm there is no danger.

Update 1: A robot is being used to sample the contaminated air and soil in the area around the collapse...

And here is a chart of current windflows...

*  *  *

As we detailed earlier, the U.S. Department of Energy activated the Emergency Operations Center Tuesday due to a tunnel collapse at the Hanford nuclear site.


According to KING-TV, a "tunnel in a plutonium finishing plant collapsed in Hanford early Tuesday morning. The tunnel was full of highly contaminated materials such as hot radioactive trains that transport fuel rods."

As Breaking911 reports, some workers were being evacuated while others were advised to shelter-in-place. The Hanford Fire Department is on scene and updates will be posted as they are available. Workers in the vicinity are still being sheltered as a precaution.

From the U.S. Department of Energy

“The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Richland Operations Office activated the Hanford Emergency Operations Center at 8:26 a.m., after an alert was declared at the 200 East Area. There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility. The tunnels contain contaminated materials.”

Actions taken to protect site employees include:

  • Facility personnel have been evacuated
  • As a precaution, workers in potentially affected areas of the Hanford Site have gone indoors
  • Access to the 200 East Area of the Hanford Site, which is located in the center of the Hanford Site, has been restricted to protect employees

*  *  *

As we detailed previously, 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"...

* * *

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
booboo's picture

You can be a dick to a pussy or an asshole but not another dick.

wolfnipplechips's picture

Ditto. I see a lot of idiots around, but I have a knack for steering clear of them. Plus, I only go into town one day each week. So that helps. :)

Madison's_Ghost's picture

"I can't get thru a day without having a run-in with some random asshole. Sometimes two or three times a day."

Have you ever considered, it might be you?

toady's picture

Okay,try this one. I'm at the grocery store and when I come out there's a nigger running around the lot "aggressively panhandling", or basically threatening people until they gave him money. Mostly women, you know, shopping for their families. 

I have no idea why he thought he could pull that shit on me, I'm 6'5", 260 pounds, but he followed me to my car, "c'mon man, gimme your money", "I'm talking to you bitch", "don't you walk away from me!" etc... all the way to the car.

So I get to the car and show him my .45 from under the seat, and he backs of, "alright this time... I'll see you later... this is MY neighborhood"

As I'm leaving I see the cops pulling up, someone must have called about him. I never saw him again.

The neighborhood is mostly Hispanic, but with a lot of ethnicities mixed in... is that what predominantly nigger neighborhoods are like? How can anyone live like that on a day-to-day basis? 

Erek's picture

Man, sounds like you are in the wrong location. What do you think will happen when SHTF? There won't be any cops around to collar the agressive nigger, and he won't be panhandling either. It will be something worse.

toady's picture

We live in the outskirts of Phoenix. It's really not that bad, but it does appear to be getting worse... thus my comments. Then you watch the local news and there's freeway shooters, Muslim rape gangs, child molesters.... then you come to zh and there's 500 niggers chimping out at the airport, nuclear meltdowns....

I'm thinking it's time to sell in May and go away...

Erek's picture

It seems to be getting worse every where, world-wide. A safe place to go may become a rare thing. As long as you have a strong and supportive community with a few reliable and skilled neighbors things may not be so bad.

HowdyDoody's picture

I used to have loads of run-ins, but following this upgrade to my pickup, I have no problems. Available at your local Consolidated Industrial Attachments store.


Raffie's picture

When people tell me they going fishing in the Pacific, I tell them to take a Geiger counter to see how hot the fish is.

They think I am joking and I am not.

buttmint's picture

...this oughta dampen all the millenials moving to PDX.

The only thing saving PDX and Seattle are prevailing wind patterns.

Send in Soros-funded NGO groups to clean up this mess!

Raffie's picture

I live a few hundred miles East of there.


Between Seattle mind set, high taxes, anti-gun nut jobs, muzzies and the slow motion nuclear disaster, I don;t know what it worse. Hate them all equally.

thedespised's picture

before you freak out, check first with a giger counter. There is ample evidence fukishima is not radioactive.

Raffie's picture

This has been a bit of as hidden disaster for a long time.

Radioactive crap has been trickling into the river for well over a decade.

They rotate workers like mad out there due to cancer risk.

An I do have a giger counter. $99 one, but it works.


shamus001's picture

Well, at least I live NORTH of the site.  Winds blow south easterly... you look dressed for the occasion tho


j0nx's picture

Such a shame all of it. One of the most beautiful parts of the country out there.

Dolus's picture

Live in Seattle and HATE it. Very hard to talk to anyone here who isn't a complete moonbat. 

Raffie's picture

Wear President Trump shirt and hat around the city. ROFL

They are totally nuts. Seattle is like a social peatri dish which they are experimenting on.

Well when WW3 starts Seattle will be erased for a new start.

Women there are out of their freaking minds too. Big fat wobblers act like they are centerfold in Playboy.

Seattle's problem is most the people who live there. Love the city and Pike's Market, aside from that.

Mr.BlingBling's picture

Seattle and SF are why God invented the neutron bomb.

Raffie's picture

An mega earthquake faults and volcanos.

Dog Will Hunt's picture

Then shut up and move your buttfuckin' hillbilly ass to Texas. Rot with the other like-minded sodomites.

Raffie's picture

Hillbilly? But I don't like moonshine, country music, 4x4 trucks so big you have to know where all the gas stations are or wearing flannels. Do like a good micro brew.

If it was ONLY that easy.

Limited funds puts a big damper on what a person can do.

Would like to move to Texas or Arizona.

Also I got loose ends here that need to be tied up 1st.

Ace Ventura's picture

That's hilarious.....because buttfuckin' is a habit practiced by your average Texan, right? Unlike those masculine bastions of awesome that hail from......Seattle. You know, the town where using the word 'masculine' is probably a municipal code violation, or even a crime.

Raffie's picture

I side stepped the word buttfukin' because it was low hanging fruit to easy use. LOL

you_are_cleared_hot's picture

Being serious here, I would get out now. Do NOT rely of state/local authorities to give you good and timely info...act as if you are on your own. Give us an update when you can Raffie.

Raffie's picture

I'm good and ready for when SHTF.

Its not the 1st time this has happened and don't think it will be the last.

If my Geiger Counter goes hot, you bet I'm out. Would go with my friend to his place on Priest Lake, ID.

thx for the concern though.

Been running my counter for around 30min and 19 to 28 CPM average. If it was over 40CPM would take a harder look.

Haad 1 spike to 34 then back to low 20's

Down to high teen readings now. Time will tell.

mccvilb's picture

Plutonium 210 means alpha particle radiation. Chances are your geiger counter only monitors beta radiation. 

mccvilb's picture

Just don't eat any and you'll be fine.

Countrybunkererd's picture

so do not eat for 39 years?

Mustafa Kemal's picture

"now lets see how long its been since this place has been inspected and / or they failed to fix the issues brought up from those inspections."

Ive been hearing about problems at Hanford for some time. Maybe we will get an update now

peopledontwanttruth's picture

Probably moved them east of the site. Which way does the wind patterns normally blow?

Idiots to invent and build something that can't be stored. Reaping what we've sown. Probably thinking that the next generation would have to deal with this.

booboo's picture

.gov monitoring.gov...yea that should work out for us.

Sonny Brakes's picture

Of course, there'll be an investigation and dozens if not thousands of cronies will cash in while innocent victims will be left to kicking stones in frustration. Politicians will go on TV and sing a song we've all heard sung before about how America does right by its citizens. The greatest show on Earth up until we have no Earth to call home anymore. Mass extinction, because suicide is such a negative way to say it, is right around the corner.

HRClinton's picture

Quick, somebody get pictures of Beautiful Babies getting irradiated by these WMDs to Ivanka and Donald!

El Vaquero's picture

Hanford is a fucking wreck.  They don't know how to fix the issues brought up from those inspections.  

SoDamnMad's picture

This is the same inspection company that was watching Oroville Dam for the last 10 years. Another Ooooppps,  We shoulda got out of the truck after we finished out coffee and donuts.

Mentaliusanything's picture

That image of the  sign saying restricted entry, tells a long story about America... Decay kills slowly and your dying.

But hey you all new that when you took the eye off the ball after WWII.


HRClinton's picture

There's gonna be a ton of angry Peppers and Isolationists, living there.

The odds of bagging a two-headed deer just went up though. I wonder if some guys will now dream of a three-breasted woman, as seen in the old Total Recall.

booboo's picture

My wife had 4 breast....after about 8 shots of Grey Goose.

lcs's picture

Doesn't it smart when your knee jerks like that?

Fish Gone Bad's picture

Fukushima did not go away, and each and every day, it is a little bit more fucked up.

Anteater's picture

In the mid-80's I worked at Sta Susana Labs in Canoga Park, LA, preparing to fire up an experimental liquid sodium nuclear reactor, right there in N LA on the San Andreas fault, lol. The Rocketdyne operation gave our crew six crappy XT computers. You had to bring your own software! It was all contract-hire labor, just work the clock, work the clock. I couldn't stop laughing. Finally another guy and I were telling jokes non-stop, 'affecting production', and then thank god Rocketdyne managers laid me off before a couple folks died of radiation poisoning. Then the big Northridge earthquake hit, right there. I guarantee we didn' t design for a quake like that! No news from Sta Susana, a total blackout. If the reactor leaked and burned nobody was saying. Who would know? It's a Secret installation. Latrr I tried to get my hours certified for my trade card, but Rocketdyne said all the employee records from that time were lost in a 'computer malfunction', ...meaning we were all probably exposed to radiation, right there on the edge of LA and a couple million oblivious Angelinos. MTTW/FTTW program. Like it never happened, baby. And now I have to kill you, lol.

juicy_bananas's picture

We irradiated some folks.
Someone wake Rick Perry.

BitchesBetterRecognize's picture

look at that distraction !!! 

Dr. Engali's picture

Fucking Putin at it again!

E.F. Mutton's picture

Those Mexican Dope Tunnels are getting ridiculously long...