"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...

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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"...

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SpanishGoop's picture

"officials reevaluate the situation and figure out how to get to the leaked radioactive waste."

A wise person would try to get away from it but he, they are officials.


gdpetti's picture

sinkhole? if so, just another sign of the times... and don't forget this whole coastline is a line of volcanoes running down ... old volcanoe tubes have to be all over the place .

tuetenueggel's picture

 a huge sinkhole produced by huge assholes

chosen's picture

That would be a stinkhole.

UdderContempt's picture

There was an earthquake swarm near this facility a few days ago...small movement, but I doubt it takes much to damage this pile of death.

tuetenueggel's picture

No. Russians had been seen at the plant

rwe2late's picture

 that was a false flag.

It was North Koreans disguised as Russians.

SMC's picture

Judging from the condition of that alleged US DOE road sign, "We the People" have been screwed over again.

Kefeer's picture

The solution is to fix it with piles of Federal Reserve Notes on the back of you and I.  Applause applause.

indaknow's picture

Some workers were being evacuated while others were advised  to shelter in place.  Hmm...would that be management running for their lives while the "others" were told to sit still?

Shelter in place always means get the fuck outta there!

lakecity55's picture

Ali: so, it was easy to get in?
Mohammed: Yes! They did not want to discriminate! I was approved ahead of Americans! I set the charges to blow the emergency tunnel!
Ali: Excellent, my Brother!

Handful of Dust's picture

"No one saw this coming...." was the testimony of the 'clean energy commissioners.'

Deep Snorkeler's picture

Random Thoughts About Radiation

-Fukushima Radiation: endocrine disruption makes it hard to concentrate.

-Radiation spills are designed to sterilize the poor and ignorant.

-I clutch my Ivanka handbag in fear.

-Western Civilization is in the last feeding frenzy of the techno-industrial age.

-The cost of drinking water will become more expensive each year.

-God loves you, but will kill you all in a genocidal rage.

-As a child, I used to play dead on the playground during recess.




lakecity55's picture

Ha Ha Ha, you think we will give you serfs real Information? We are the US Stasi! Fuck off, Americans!

moorewasthebestbond's picture

The doom porn boys will be sure to chime in on this!

Secret Weapon's picture

Just a small taste of things to come once the Cascadia subduction Zone lets loose. 

Your wish was my command.

HardAssets's picture

I've been at that site (years ago).

The local high school calls themselves 'The Bombers' and their mascot is a mushroom cloud.
(I sh*t you not.)


A strange place in a country that is more obviously recognized as strange with each passing day.

Hikikomori's picture

Sounds like they are handling the problem well, doesn't sound like everyone needs to panic.

steelrules's picture

Woop, just what we need. Prevailing winds blow that shit my way across the Canadian border. 

newmacroman's picture

We'll build a wall to stop it. Meet me in Osooyoos, I'll bring the butterfly net.

moorewasthebestbond's picture

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were up and running within days.


What's be big issue here?

Caleb Abell's picture

That would explain the shirtless guy on horseback who was seen circling the site last night.

scallywagrab's picture

Yup, with his own pick & spade ;-) 


InternetToughGuy's picture

Four months ago a guy on youtube predicted a nuclear hoax to be carried out in Seattle Hanford Columbia:

I think this is yet another hoax. I hope the faggot pedorast mayor can handle this dangerous emergency and demonstrate that he has a cool head under pressure.

no1wonder's picture

Columbia river and Chernobyl the most radioactive places on earth

tuetenueggel's picture

forgot three mile island ?

TabakLover's picture

#1 environmental threat to Washington state, make your pick:


2. Fookashema

3. DOE

no1wonder's picture

Actually it saved NK doing the job.

OliverAnd's picture

All the Federal Governement needs to do now is print more USD to cover the site and prevent the radiation from spreading.

funkyfreddy's picture

Remember, there is nothing to worry about with fukushima....... the "explosions" were simply the venting of some hydrogen. Nothing to worry about.

cherry picker's picture

When people are hell bent on manufacuring WMDs, they don't ever consider it can come back and do to you what was intended for others.

tuetenueggel's picture

Pls move on there´s nothing to see, pls move on. At no time there had been any danger for population. Pls move on, nothing to see here.

OliverAnd's picture

And we worried about North Korea nuking the USA...  the USA may have done so on its own.

HumanMan's picture

Yeah Kim has got to be having a good day after seeing this.

Deep Snorkeler's picture

I was bewildered by

strange glitches, random

persistent failures, and


human incompetence.

They built Fukushima

insulting the Ring of Fire,

on a beach,

waiting for tsunamis of 



Silver Savior's picture

On Trump's watch. lol. 

Goldennutz's picture

On the Trump Signature Edition watch he wears?

WTFUD's picture

If you like your seepage you can keep it.

Anyway Russia have identified another soft target although Uncle Scam seems to be doing a grand job all by itself.

Hope Copy's picture

Bulid a monument out of radio-active bricks, better yet, luxury houses.

pocomotion's picture

Do we have anything that covers 5/11 yet?  Two days away.

I hope they will contain this mess as I have relatives living near by this plant.

God save us all...

fishwharf's picture

Those first responders are standing around with no protective gear at all.  I'm reminded of the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan who didn't realize the Fukishima fallout was dangerous until it was too late.

Zarbo's picture

Once upon a time, long ago, I worked near the site at Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL).  Also close to the site is LIGO, which discovered evidence of gravity waves.  At 3 AM one morning, after commuting to the site every week for a year, I wrote this (TL;DR):


        Attached is my PNNL report for the merry, merry month of May, I hope
you aren't taken by surprise.  Spring and dust are in the air here in
Richland, Washington.  The wind is blowing anything taller than four feet
high right over or completely away.  The salmon are spawning in the spent
fuel storage pools along the Columbia River.  There is a burdgeoning cottage
industry removing tumbleweeds from people's car grills, lawns, swimming
pools, teeth, and hair.  The blue glow is visible at night from area 800
just down/up the road (Cherenkov radiation is caused by particles exceeding
the speed of light in a particular media -- either air or water) -- just
kidding, it is really the neon clock radio display in my room, whew.

        None of the distinctive sirens mentioned in the exciting multi-media
(!), web-based  training course have sounded yet, but I am anxiously waiting
for two of my favorites:  1) the one that means "run" (unspecified
direction, speed, and reason...) "Ah ooga Ah ooga Ah ooga" and 2) the one
that means "stay indoors" (because either the nerve-gas depot up wind
[Umatilla Army Depot in Umatilla, Oregon] has exploded or one of the five
nuclear reactors or several hundred nuclear waste tanks have exploded,
melted down and/or vaporized), which appropriately goes simply
"Ooooooooooooooooooooo".  By the way, I needed to download a special audio
browser barnicle to actually *hear* examples of the sirens without
first-hand experience playing a part...

        There are non-descript yellow and black signs with (currently
non)flashing lights that say "When flashing, tune 1130 AM for traffic
information".  Simple, innocuous, and somewhat understated.  I am guessing
that there would not be a traffic jam going -into- the 800 area, but there
might be a very calm radio announcer describing whatever problems there are
getting -out- of town. "WA240 is partly blocked by a nuclear fire-ball, only
one lane is getting through" (no wonder the freeways are six lanes for a
town of 50,000).  Thank goodness they turned off the Fast-Flux Test Facility
(FFTF) some years ago, which is a nuclear breeder reactor under a stylish
black dome that produced more weapons-grade plutonium than it consumed (now
there's a neat concept, gotta get one of those...) -- it is just five
blocks, as the neutron flies, up the road from where I am sitting.  No need
to put that baby into mothballs -- no self respecting moth would live long
enough to disturb it.  Come to think of it I did see that the local
dormatory that is my home did have a rental VCR tape of "Mothra" in the
library.  Now it all makes sense, it was really a -training- film.

        The latest site newsletter says they hauled off the last of the
"strontium garden" last month (1200 tons or so of soil highly contaminated
with strontium and cesium to see what it would do to plants, fruits, and
grains).  This unfortunately forced me to re-arrange my free-time schedule,
which was to include a tour of the cages they built to keep birds and other
animals out of the garden.  Fruit bats and bald (?) eagles were not meant to
glow in the dark, apparently.  I was anxious to see just how you actually
-grow- strontium 90.  And darn, I was looking forward to that leisurely
stroll down the garden path (so to speak) with Mary, Mary quite contrary.
One has to wonder where they "planted" the strontium garden's remains.

        I'm not sure, but I think Richland has the potential to be the next
Disneyland or maybe a "Six Flags and a Mutant" theme park.  Might take a
little paint and PR work, but the fun aspect is definitely here.   Really.
Thank goodness I spend all of my time indoors in a windowless (not MS
Windowless, unfortunately) computer room.  But I digress.  Again.  Still.

Next month: "Culinary Delights in the Nuclear Outback: A Survey of What to
Eat and What to Avoid in Richland, Washington" also published under "Zagat
Void: Places Too Desolate to be Listed in Any Restaurant Guide".



Peterman333's picture

The answer to the question: Why don't you want to live near a Nuclear Reactor?

Also, they should ALL be decommissioned, they all leak and if the SHTF are the employees going to show up to run the place or will they likely be off minding their families? Who runs the thing then? It go on autopilot?

chosen's picture

Hanford WA is a cancer hot-spot.  But of course, not because of the Hanford nuclear facility. (sarc).