"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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Davidduke2000's picture

Damn it, my dick head is going to glow in the dark like a light sabre

Grandad Grumps's picture


Ant People?

ThrowAwayYourTV's picture

But the most important thing about this is that, somebody is going to make millions and millions of tax payers dollars.


o r c k's picture

No worries. Our experts were trained by those Fukushima experts. (hey, what's the loss of one Pacific ocean?)

Shpedly's picture

Huh, we only have one?

TePikoElPozo's picture

a nuclear power station is basically a steam-driven engine that uses radiation instead of coal to heat the water

old ass technology


Tesla's energy-tower technology has been supressed

Einstein is faker than the moon landings

Making Merica Great Again's picture

Putin you silly basturd!

MagicCooler's picture

This is about 120 miles from me as the crow flies.  I hope I'm not killed.

Now, where did I put that piece of navel lint I was looking at this morning...?

BSHJ's picture

Those crows better be careful......that is a no-fly zone now......so is it still 120 miles?

I-am-not-one-of-them-'s picture

Plutonium does not exist in nature, all the nasty isotopes don't exist in nature, they were man made, in nuclear reactors or after nuclear bomb detonations, and are creeping into the environment everywhere on earth. 

(Hanford ain't going away ever, get the hint?)

Shpedly's picture

Mother nature and this earth will have the last laugh. Once the human race has annihilated itself, the earth will heal. Some 10's of thousands of years and they won't even know man was here.

zebrasquid's picture

The crows still flying?....that's a hopeful sign!

BSHJ's picture

Shovel ready job?  Stock market rally Wednesday on hope for infrastructure money?

debunker's picture

Thank God! I feel so much safer now that Secretary McDufus has been briefed on the incident.

His degree in animal husbandry will no doubt help save us all.

Mr.Danglemeat's picture

 On a little road trip many years ago, I found myself at the main entrance to the Hanford reservation. Being as this was shortly after those airplanes ran into those big buildings in NYC, the Hanford site was in some type of security lock-down.

 I could see the containment vessle dome of one of the reactors just a half a block away...coulda hit it with a rock

 So I'm sitting at the front gate and out walks this security guard. I kid you not, this guy was straight out of an episode of Andy Griffith. He was a three hundred pounder if I'm a day over twenty. He had a Colt .38 Police Special strapped on his belt but the holster was otherwise unsecured so, with each step he took, the holster would flop back-n-forth. So finally he waddles up to my window, leans down and wheezes "How can I help you?" so I told him I was hoping for a tour; this site being a national treasure of sorts. He laughs and says all of the tours are suspended owing to those terrrrrorists in New York.

 So anyway I wanted to share this little anecdote with all of you fine folks here at ZH in hopes that you all will sleep better knowing that Barney Fuckin' Fife is protecting the reactors at Hanford. I remember as I drove away how easy it would be to cause a little mayhem there....

 D'yall know who is responsible for the security at the power generating reactors here in the US??..the company that owns them...feel safer now?? When the bottom line is gettin' squeezed...whaddya think gets cut first, management perks or security?


Sleep easy 'cause ain't nobody leavin' here alive....

Pork Rind's picture

@Mr.Danglemeat  Noted is your contempt for ordinary Americans. That's always a clue that you are Jewish. Yeah, we know that after 911, lots of Jews like you were caught surveilling our nuclear sites. Sure, you just happened to be driving past a nuclear power plant that day, and decided to stop and say hello. Many Americans grew up watching Andy Griffith and feel an affection for the characters on that show, but your hatred of small town America shows you to be an outsider.

Pork Rind's picture

and it was an Israeli company in charge of Boston Airport security on the day of 911 - Barney Fife could have done a better job than that Jew Israeli company

Mr.Danglemeat's picture

 It wasn't either! You're so full of it! It was a crew from Labor Ready and they were all highschool graduates, but a couple of 'em were just GED grads..like you. And they were all jewish-catholics...

 did I ever tell you I once met a man from Jupiter? He was odd in a funny kind of way..not like you,.. you're odd in a pathetic kind of way...kind of a lonely little wrinkled balloon...but hey! what about your new President Forrest Trump?, is he a piece of work or what?

Mr.Danglemeat's picture

Yessir porky  (or should I call you "cracklins"?) you've got my number!! Jewish to the end of my miniscule peepee. Actually, I'm what they call a "Jack Jew" kinda like a "Jack Mormon" only we worship the almighty dollar! Tell me where you work (If you can hold a job..) so we jackjews can buy the company and put you and your litter on the street while we move some colored folks into your former residence. 

 Your "affection" for the characters of Mayberry is really very touching... but, you know they aren't real right? I mean I'm hoping that your mammy straightened that shit out for you..they're imaginary..you know, kinda like your friends..  when you were young...or..maybe you still have 'em?

 Yessir cracklins, I was just driving past ol' Hanford..on my way to work at the Vit Plant over by Spokane...had some time to kill so i figures why not?, might as well see where all of the nasty shit came from...

AND!! there aren't anymore "ordinary Americans" to be contemptful of...ain't you never heard of "Merican Exceptionalism".

 Okay, I'm sure you're eager to get back to your Buffalo nickel collection....been nice to visit with somebody from "The Flyovers". Now try to get some rest and don't obsess about finding me and smashing my jew face to smithereens and the last place you want to look for me is in the Cathedral..you know, the one with the Celtic cross between the Bell Towers... 

 What's a Jew, anyway? some kind of rock star groupie?


Pork Rind's picture

you talk too much. you should be on a watch list.

Mr.Danglemeat's picture

Aww now Otis, you really know how to hurt a girl, don't ya? Watch List?..indeed! You mean like watch me make the sweet love to your womans hiney (you aren't queer are you?)?

Betchu gotta a "Corn fed" gal...am I right or am I right? She's not fat!, she's big-boned!!

and btw, what we're doing here is not "Talking", it's writing you little turd ball.

luckylogger's picture

I do believe security is generally contracted out to the lowest bidder..........

qwertyFUBAR's picture

Sounds like a bureaucratic overreaction in progress. Small contaminated area yes, this "routine" cave-in will be expensive and slow to clean up yes... but disaster worthy of this level of response, NO.

The "first nuclear responders" are now having ego-stroking fits.

I am a stong advocate of nuclear energy... and yet I've come to realize that these people can be their own worst enemy.  Many who handle radioactive materials for the weapons program at places like Hanford, and at commercial power plants, built up the world's finest and effective safety culture. So far so good.

But over the years even excellent and well-intentioned safety cultures become obnoxious.  Safety reaches a practical zenith where there is a good balance between 'get it done' and 'do it safe'... but there's been a slow and steady infusion of additional overhead, whole generations of young folk out to make a name for themselves, often picked from the ranks of Business and Human Resources Majors. Like falling under the grip of an opressive religion, no one can gather the courage to tell these people that anything suggested is ridiculous.

That "refrain from eating or drinking and secure your ventilation" directive when it is clear that some dry dirt has come down on top of and around secured (probably casked) waste, has the distinct feel of an out of control safety culture run amok. I wonder how many other useless and irrelevent actions are being taken, how many tons of paperwork is in progress.

This shit just feeds the nuke hysterians.

sinbad2's picture

But they won't fix it, they will spend a lot of money on enquires and studies, and then do what they have always done, nothing.

It's been 70 years since the US created the mother of all garbage dumps, and over the years they have made lots of plans to clean up the mess, but have done nothing.

What makes you think they will do anything this time?

Kefeer's picture

Nothing has been detected and upon further examination; the Geiger counters were not working because they had no batteries.  Again - nothing detected here.  :)

Malkavian's picture

I'm going to listen on amateur/mil, fed, GUARD freqs I'm within 50mi of Hanford.

I-am-not-one-of-them-'s picture

The half life of Plutonium is longer than human civilization's existance on earth and time needs 20x 24,000 years to see it gone.

They aren't playing with fire, they are playing with Plutonium, dumb shits.

Sudden Debt's picture

All those facilities date from the cold war.

Worldwide, all nuclear plants are posing a serious problem.

I-am-not-one-of-them-'s picture

Hanford processed the Plutonium for the Nagasaki Plutonium bomb in 1945, so before the cold war, during WWII and after.


robertocarlos's picture

If they put it together then they can take it apart. I mean what was the Plutonium before it was Plutonium?

sinbad2's picture

Oh God, and I bet they let you vote.

buffed's picture

Finally, this clean-up will provide the high-paying blue collar jobs in America that I'll be happy to see illegal aliens fill.  WA can even declare the area around Hanford a sanctuary city and they can all be moved there.

Handful of Dust's picture

One can hope the prevailing wind and rain will tilt toward Seattle and not eastward over Americans.

Victory_Garden's picture

Awwww, shirt.

There goes the neighborhood.

Looks like the east coast of America will catch some fallout from this. As long as it is leaking like WIPP is into Texas, it will either continue or get worse.

Hopefully, and with a pray, it will be stopped and a lot moar of that high radiation leakage will get to be addressed.

Like, it is already off the hook bad and hitting everything east of there. Has been even since before fuckushima.

All down winders be a checkin in with your radiation measurements. Especially you East coast people.

Follow the wind.:



Party on Alert status.

TheAnswerIs42's picture

Watch the Radiation Network.

If anything happens, you should see it there in almost realtime.

Nothing so far, but you never know now do ya...

And for all you Fukishima radiation addicts - check out the Woods Hole page on Fukishima.

Then go eat a banana.




Justin Case's picture

The military have pretty good equipment. Some trillion dollar planes that look good, but can't fly, multi-billion dollar navy ships that cant' propel themseleves.Money for Israel, weapons for Israel, money for terrorist factions to fight woars that merican people would object sending their kids to fight for that Arabs. Building bigger and aditional bases in Japan, keeping the other 146 operational and supported.

Merica needs to give up the empire building and Hegemony. The mericans have been fed the same propaganda on fighting for freedom and democracy, while back home it is just an illusion that is left, of a truly free democratic and proud country that majority of people looked up to and praised their accomplishments in freedom and democracy.

Today merica is just a hollow shell of what it was and what it represented. China didn't even role out the stairs for Obama to deplane when he visited China. Who would have imagined that happening 25 yrs ago to the most powerful country in the world? Even Philippines new President see's the US as another out grown bully that is dictating their foreign policies. The rejections are growing around the world. 

The unipolar world is ending and it will end badly for the merican people. The debts will not be repaid to the creditors and merica will face the consequence like anyother country that tried to print it self to prosperity. They are very desperate already, levitating markets, bonds, treasuries, gold manipulation, currency manipulation, proxy buyers of US debt instruments, fake economic numbers, woars and many other distractions. They are cornered rats, no exit from this. When the derivatives blow up, that will wreak havoc around the global banking systems. 


dexter_morgan's picture

What kind of a tunnel is this? It looks like its ground level and covered with dirt. Collapse? Or explosion? how would that collapse?

Also, if nothing was released and all is good, why are people being evacuated?

Is it just me or is this just a bunch of bullshit?

soyungato's picture

Plutonium may be leakng from the hole into the air. Why else they declare the space above a no-fly zone. I live 200 miles upwind and praying the wind does not shift direction.

Anopheles's picture

The plant has been decomissioned for a long time, they are in the process of cleaning up waste that's on site.  There's nothing to "blow up" or cause any kind of airborne release.  The worst that will happen is a water leak in a tank. 

Chet Ricco's picture

The radioactive water in the tanks was breaking down into hydrogen. Radioactive hydrogen. To pass the quiz can you tell me what happened when there was a build up of radioactive hydrogen at Fukushima?

zebrasquid's picture

You may want to consider moving to a less risky area...like Syria?

Erwin643's picture

No, it was just another one of those vaults, manufactured by Vault-Tec.

Falconsixone's picture

Someone took that section of culvert to make a nuke shelter at home?

sinbad2's picture

As they were storing nuclear waste in the tunnel, I imagine it would be reinforced concrete lined with steel. But radioactivity destroys everything over time.


Perhaps they are worried that water might get in, get boiled by the heat, and then the water vapour and plutonium would drift on the breeze.

It's hard to tell, there might be no risk at all, or it could kill tens of millions.

Madcow's picture

When a natural gas plant blows up, a few people are killed.

When a nuclear goes tits up, the entire Continent must be evacuated for thousands of years. 


It is no wonder Gov-Co vastly prefers the latter. 


Erwin643's picture

I won't beleive any statements from the gov't until I see one presented with The Vault Boy.

I wonder if he was in the tunnel?