"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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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.

Evacuations?

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. 

 

Rebel yell's picture

NO. Your ignorance is deadly!!! They both kill people by poisoning water! There were over 220 oil pipeline spills last year!! A few years ago in my state, hundreds of people had their personal wells destroyed by a pipeline spill!

http://www.ecowatch.com/pipeline-spills-2061960029.html

just the tip's picture

NO. Your ignorance is funny.  then move to a different state. you can do that with a poisoned well.  not with a reactor.  and radioactive material does not need water to poison anyone.  just stick to your raving lunatic horseshit about fracking.  oh.  and stop driving any vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

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?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLphfppRIaU

robertocarlos's picture

When a 450 Kt Russian nuke lands 500 yards from you I'm sure you'll be OK as long as you are buried under 8 feet of top soil.

Erwin643's picture

You'd probably end up in a pile of human rendering goo about a foot thick on the floor of the bunker, just like in Hamburg or Dresden.

chubakka's picture

just another example of the state of the neglected infrastucture of the US.

robertocarlos's picture

Fucking Jet stream. That shit is going to land on my head.

bugs_'s picture

When you get a signal from Dr. Plutonium run.

Aubiekong's picture

Easy, as more radiation is showing up from Japan's meltdown it can now be blamed and covered up as "leakage" from this site.  We don't want mass panic now do we?

Ms No's picture

That has already happened to some extent but reversed.  Right after Fukushima went off somebody found radiation in Washington milk but it was likely from Hanford.  Seattle probably gets more Fukushima because of the rain and Eastern Washington gets more Hanford.  Once you mix it together it get really good though.

Falconsixone's picture

Fukushima wasn't doing the trick. They needed something closer.

sinbad2's picture

A Hanford and Fukushima cocktail, with a dash of leaded water, delicious.

grunk's picture

False flag by Bezos to take over the energy grid.

robertocarlos's picture

He lost money on my last order. Shipping has to be killing him.

AnarchistRex's picture

There have been techniques to deal with nuclear waste for decades, but they don't want to do it for whatever reason .... one of them is to 'glassify' the wast (mix with silicon and turn into glass beads) and then dump it into the marinarus (or some other huge subduction zone) trench ... it then takes hundreds of millions of years to return to the surface - if it even does, as the heavy dense isotopes sink deeper into the earth. And if it does come back to the surface, by the time it does it's lost most of it's radioactivity.

robertocarlos's picture

Load all of it into a Musk rocket and send it to the Sun. It's an all or nothing deal. Oh wait there are many tonnes of it. Load it into multiple Musk rockets and send it to the Sun. Don't sub it out to Kim.

Anopheles's picture

They are in the process of doing that.  They are vitrifying the last remaining waste in a plant on site.  Vitrification means turning it into glass... 

The entire site is almost completely decommissioned already. 

Davidduke2000's picture

a hole of 20' x20' and 8 feet of soil blown away and the departement says no radiation was detected .

 

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.

 

Who are they kidding ??????

Ms No's picture

Exactly.  I always wondered with H2S and radiation monitors if they are set screwed up or not also.  A lot of the H2S monitors are pieces of shit. 

Faeriedust's picture

I remember reading reports in the scientific journals about leakage at Hanford back in the 80's.  They've been 2 steps behind the problem every step of the way, never quite catching up before the next level of containment fails.  The only solution is to entomb the entire reservation with lead and concrete.  Maybe the Russians who've worked at Chernobyl could advise them, since they seem pretty clueless.

sinbad2's picture

It's not about technology, it's about money.

The Russians spent a lot of money cleaning up Chernobyl, but the US simply won't spend the money to clean up the mess at Hanford.

TuPhat's picture

Another stupid non news item about nuclear power from ZH.  Since they have nothing to report they post an old article from several years ago to stir up the anti nuke ZH crazies.  I used to think ZH was better than mainstream media but they are becomming more and more the same.  Sad really.

Anopheles's picture

Yup.  The entire site is almost completely decommissioned already. 

robertocarlos's picture

Please, not the Wala Wala onion patch. Why do all the good things in life get ruined.

Anopheles's picture

Why doesn't all the news report tell everyone that the entire facility is almost completely decommissioned already? 

Oh right, then they can't claim the sky is falling and it's going to the end of mankind on earth.... 

sinbad2's picture

And why is it closed, because if you enter, you die.

hsun85's picture

There goes the Seattle housing market.

Ms No's picture

The dominant winds are east there.  Spokane, North Idaho, Montana and E Oregon. 

gdpetti's picture

Well, since they have less frackin' waste, they had to make up for it, right?

just the tip's picture

that first  photograph (update 3) looks a lot like the apollo 12 lunar landing site.  not the first lunar landing site, the second.  just a thought.

Ms No's picture

According to the AP: "As part of a huge, ongoing cleanup, rail cars full of radioactive waste were driven into tunnels and buried, Bradbury said."

That sounds like a winning plan.  It also looks like they have subsidence over a very large area at and near the tunnel: "No workers were inside the tunnel when it collapsed, causing soil on the surface above to sink two to four feet (half to 1.2 meters) over a 400 square foot (37.1 square meters) area, officials said."

And it sounds like the Hedge says there is also a breach.  This site is an absolute disaster that is so FUBARed that it cannot be fixed.  It has been spewing and spilling since it began, not since the 70s but much earlier.  They literally just find random waste buried under the ground there.  They will also lie about everything but they admit that 200 square miles of ground water in the area is fucked.  This nuke reservation is like 580 square miles (Road Island).

There probably isn't anything that can be done besides pouring concrete over the entire tunnel.  The groundwater is irreversibly screwed and the Columbia has been radioactive for a long time and will continue to get worse.  In the old 1949 "Green run", a supposed experiment, they released a bunch of radioactive iodine from there and this map was the estimated exposure area for the conditions at the time.  Workers talk about tanks like "burping Bertha".  They have to be venting those tanks and some of these other areas.  We don't know 1/100th of what is going on there but it isn't good.

Chalk up another 200 billion to the cost of WWII. 

 

http://www.hanfordproject.com/greenrun.html 

http://www.redding.com/story/tech/science/environment/2017/05/09/alert-hanford-nuclear-reservation-tunnel-collapses/101468248/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Run

http://www.toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Green+Run+-+Hanford

Falconsixone's picture

Pull It!

The fucking things been leaking for 60yrs why worry? Drink your water and pay your elec. bill this is just a chance to dump more shit for free. Nothing the see, taste or smell here. ALL nuCLEAR!

The Japs and USAF bomb you worse everyday but that's ok (you dont know). They pulled the rad check stations when fucashima popped because it was to high so they dont have a clue what's happening to the public (worker safety number one priority). You dont matter at all and never did so quit thinking you do to "them".

 

Omega_Man's picture

so false flag...terrorists to bomb it

Snout the First's picture

And these are the same clowns who want to manage the planetary climate?

williambanzai7's picture

Cesium crackers anyone?

quartshort's picture

Don't forget to wash it down with a 50mg dose of Iodoral.

Oath_Keeper's picture

A Non-Event. Other hand is doing what?

ToSoft4Truth's picture

Convenient excuse to delay the wall even longer....

 

 

LN's picture

Well, we'll finally get the RDA of RADS, woo hoo!

Now where's my Radaway?

LN

Looks like they got a brand new sign too.

Phillyguy's picture

 

We have the village idiots convention- consisting of “President” Trump and Energy Sec Rick Perry over seeing the latest disaster at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. How do the folks living in these area feel about radioactive plutonium and uranium contaminating their air and water? We deserve who we vote for.

LN's picture

Well, Trump was not born when this mess got started, and was probably about fifteen when it peaked.

We made a mess no one can fix, long before most alive today could vote, so your point is on top of your head?

LN

ironmace's picture

wow, that's fucking brilliant.

Ms No's picture

Listen to this video and audio of what dispatch said "Engine 1912, Rescue 1912, Medic 1922, Medic 1921...Respond.  Purex tunnel for a possible collapse of the tunnel.  It's just releasing contaminaion and high radiation out of the tunnel.  We are going to try and figure out the doses right now".... "As the day went on the news got better"  ???

http://www.khq.com/clip/13315272/hanford-emergency-after-tunnel-collapse

Edit:  Here is another one.  The tunnels were just a temporary solution, mmmkay?

http://www.khq.com/clip/13315287/rail-car-tunnels-were-a-temporary-solution