"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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Consuelo's picture



The oft-misused term by ambulance chasers (Pain & Suffering) unfortunately has very real meaning here...

Zarbo's picture

There is (was?) a group of people called the "Downwinders".  These are folks with higher-than normal incidences of cancer who were down-wind from the early above-ground nuclear tests.  They all lived in towns or areas within the wind plumes that distributed the dusty results of the blast.

James TraffiCan't's picture

What has the Fucking Governement Ever Done that has actully Fucking worked! Stupid Ass  Bureaucrat? The moment we start hanging the people (Starting at the Top), we'll see the cleanest run Government ever! BT(Fucking)W, we need to start at the top of the EPA, no one has ever been held accountable for the Toxic EPA Dump in the River in Colorado last year...we can start the hanging there.


Beam me up! 

OliverAnd's picture

All the Federal Governement needs to do now is print more USD to cover the site/hole with Benjamins to prevent the radiation from spreading...

Consuelo's picture



Safe, Clean Power.


And don't forget your prescription of Gleevec™ on the way home!!

Atomic Punk's picture

The Russians I tell you... The Russians!!!

highwaytoserfdom's picture

well put the robot army to work and send the real troops to fly air traffic over the poppy fields and train the christian killers and that Black Hawk down country... so Macron  and his ilk can have side by side airfields with China and Zuckerburg can censor both side by side airfield rulers...

CAN'T make this 666 stuff up....    Soros  Kushner   and while we are on clowns  MacRon   remind you ron Mac  Ronald MacDonald...    the Irony of this universe is unnerving.. With the globalist 


Hanford  Paducah, Ky., Portsmouth, Ohio, and Oak Ridge, Tenn. All need massive defense spending and stop the wasteful broken windows and interventionism of the CFR, tree-lateral,  club of Rome criminals..  Here is an Idea Get the Russians to help they have some experience..   Might be something pretty important like space station, Particle accelerators, Combined reactors, Fusion...     


Ignorance is bliss's picture

Blow Back is a bitch. If we were not hell bent on global hegemony none of this would be an issue.

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.

rejected's picture

Good thing we have a responsible elected leadership to handle these problems or we'd be in real trouble!

Goldennutz's picture

Sounds like another typical gooberment statement:


"Christie Todd Whitman assures workmen, days after 911, that the air is no threat to health."


Hundreds of rescue workers are now dead or dying from the exposure...thanks Scumbag..



zebrasquid's picture

I don't recall seeing Christine out there, days on end..

zebrasquid's picture

I don't recall seeing Christine out there, days on end..

Beans's picture

This is what happens when you let (((dual citizens))) asset strip and debt finance the 'shift' out of you. Year after year, decade after decade, eventually the music dies...

Solio's picture

The U.S. has very successfully bombed itself since 1945. Those of you who are responsible for this stand up so that you can get proper recognition.

sgorem's picture


rejected's picture

Is it by the Ocean or other water way or in a earth quake zone? Just curious,,, seems that's the only places government builds those things.

any_mouse's picture

"Ocean or other water way or in a earth quake zone"

Copius wetness and a big crack to swallow the load when it comes.

atthelake's picture

When I saw my neighborhood declining, 30 years ago, I looked for a place, out in the sticks, found it, put the old house up for sale and moved. It was an inconvenience, to the entire family, but I'm glad we did it.

Now, in 2017, I'm wondering if there is anywhere, in the world, that is safe.

idontcare's picture

Ushuaia in Argentina is rather quaint.

Mr.Danglemeat's picture

I have a little sub-division I'm putting together on the moon. Want a lot? They're cheap!

perkunas's picture

Canada has nothing to worry about, a couple years back, they turned off all the monitoring stations across the country.

These things can never happen, if we don't know.


atthelake's picture

If ANYONE says something is safe, they're lying. NEVER believe anyone who says anything is safe. NEVER, ever, ever.

ArmchairQB's picture

I feel better now that I know secretarty Perry is on top of it..... Oops

Eddielaidler's picture

The particles are coming home to roost. Let's see. CO2 or Radioactivity..... Hmm. I would take the C02. You can harvest C02 as a resource and make things from it.

Dickweed Wang's picture

I would take the C02. You can harvest C02 as a resource and make things from it.


Yep, like David said in his comment it makes plants grow just like fertilizer.  The troll that downvoted you must be one of the brainwashed idiots that thinks CO2 is worse than radiation . . . what a fucking moron.

Fundies's picture

All aboard the Satan Express. 

idontcare's picture

Has anyone tested the Columbia River lately?

koan's picture

The storage facility has had reports of leaks for quite some time, it does help to explain the odd behavior in Portland though.

Dickweed Wang's picture

. . . it does help to explain the odd behavior in Portland though.


Yep . . . muties.

wholy1's picture

No problem, "Folks".  The gov "agents/spoke-person" have everything under control -  simply raise the "acceptable" rads limit to match the current level.  Now, just put your noses back in those "smart"phones connected to FAKEbook and Twatter!

Dickweed Wang's picture

Hey, build a plutonium processing facility (that's what Hanford was built for during the Manhattan project) right next to one of the largest rivers in the Northwest with 1940's technology and then do no maintenance or preventative measures for 70 years . . . what could go wrong, right? 

Oh, and BTW . . . plutonium just happens to be probably THE most toxic and carcinogenic substance known to man - ingest just a microgram of that shit and you might as well schedule the chemotherapy sessions 10-20 years in advance.  More than that gets ingested and you might as well schedule your funeral.

So much for the fucking atomic age . . . what bullshit that sales pitch was!

For those that are interested the link below is to probably the best documentary I've ever seen on the development of nuclear weapons - it's a must see:


koan's picture

No fly so that no one gets a shot with their drone... how pathetic is that.

Davidduke2000's picture

Russian satellites are already on top taking amazing photos, but too bad they never release them. 

Fundies's picture

It's OK folks.  They did a couple of drills,  but not on a scenario quite like this. ....but you should be OK.

Davidduke2000's picture

One of the lost 36 tomahawks landed there on target as reprogrammed by the Russians.

DirtySanchez's picture

Appears as if the species is going to grow eyes in the back of our heads, 3rd nostrils, and ever smaller brains.

Non-Corporate Entity's picture

Imagine if a billionaire offered up a $ 100million prize to the scientists that discover how to render radioactive material inert. Imagine that!

pine_marten's picture

Once the material is enriched only time will unenrich it.  Billions of years in some cases.  Recently there have been clusters of rare and very ugly birth defects in the communities surrounding Hanford. 

hutnela's picture

Those ugly birth defects are called liberals, and they're all over Washington state.

Dilluminati's picture

Laser transmutation


Giant laser transmutes nuclear waste


There is a solution it is just that it isn't a priority, we talk about all this and that about global warming, and other priorities.  But because that stuff is out of sight (and that site restricted) and out of mind until an event, it hasn't happened.  This is because we don't have a national energy policy.   Our policy is no policy, and that has benefits and also problems.

The liberals are probably the biggest frauds, take drinking water as an example and the libtards left in charge of that.   So you know the same group in charge of this sort of stuff, (imagine the type that works and sits atop this mess daily) being told not to eat or drink.

Allot of career people are risk adverse, and that risk adversion is easy because coming up with risks is easier than solutions.  It's just a fact. Add to that no perfect location for another 100 or so years of storage and those costs.  So risk analysis paralysis leads us to this scenario instead, the absence of a perfect solution obstructing a rational one.

Now in personal life, we always have a plan B.  Career players (people who play the career game) don't think that way, it is not natural to them.

There is also plutonium vitrification. 


It is not a priority.  Focus on furbies my friend.

Davidduke2000's picture

Was that hole cause by an inside out explosion or an outside inside one such as a missile from space on Russia's victory day.

hutnela's picture

They're called graboids... unless they evolve into ass blasters... better call Bert. 

ThanksIwillHaveAnother's picture

Deferred maintenance once again in a broke country?

south40_dreams's picture

No wonder Portland and Seattle have been acting so strange lately

zebrasquid's picture

THAT'S why they all have green hair there !?