"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"...

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froze25's picture

This doesn't look good, 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.

cossack55's picture

Time to go fishing in the Columbia again

Ignatius's picture

This is no time for name-calling.

The question is, can the fire be put out by dousing it with FRNs?

kliguy38's picture

everyone just needs to relax and remain calm.....should have this all cleared up in about 899 years

remain calm's picture

One more time: CBLI

You're Welcome

Manthong's picture

What’ the big deal?

If the White Helmets in Syria can handle clean-up of a horrible Sarin attack in their jeans wearing N-91 dust masks, what’s a little plutonium dust?

At least the guys in Hanford don’t have to worry about 59 inaccurate Raytheon cruise missiles from a $200 million Trump stunt raining about. 


GUS100CORRINA's picture

"Emergency Alert" Declared At Hanford Nuclear Facility In Washington, Evacuation Ordered

Fukushima AMERICAN Style?????

Exactly what is going to happen when these areas experience earthquakes or the earth is bombarded by meteors when if passes through the tail of NIBIRU (Planet X)????

To quote Albert Einstein: 'Nuclear power is a hell of a way to boil water'!!!!

hedgeless_horseman's picture


This is not bullish for James Wesley Rawles' real estate investments in his American Redoubt .




tmosley's picture

We really need thorium/breeder reactors if for no other reason than to get rid of all these dangerous radioactive materials.

LWRs are madness made steel and concrete.

Raffie's picture

They will not do thorium because its all about big money in the uranium industry and thorium is pretty common iirc.

Not sure if they could make thorium weapons as/more powerful then hydrogen bombs.



Urban Roman's picture

They don't use thorium because (skipping long winded description) it sucks for constructing weapons.

Short description: they must 'breed' the thorium to get a fissionable isotope out of it. That is, position it near or inside a running reactor (the frequently touted design has it as the main ingredient in a molten-salt mixture along with the fissionables). So then, neutrons from the fission activity bump into thorium atoms and change them to heavier isotopes, which then become fissionable after one or more beta decays.

Thing is, the isotope they get from that, U-233, is accompanied by U-232, since these nuclear things are always messy. Both of the isotopes are fissionable, I believe. But U-232 is too 'hot' and unstable to be useful for weapons. And because they are so close to the same weight, it is much more difficult to separate the two uranium isotopes. So all you can do with them is put them back into (or leave them in) the thorium mix and 'burn them up'.

The weapon makers just hate thorium.

Zero_Ledge's picture

"They discovered 8.4 inches of radioactive and chemically toxic waste has seeped into the annulus."

I think they spelled "anus" wrong.


Erek's picture

Not to worry. The guys from Fukushima will know how to clean this up.

HowdyDoody's picture

Now we know where the Norks got their nuclear material from. They simply tunnelled through the earth to the US and stole it. Plus the Russians told them where the material was stored.

AltRight Girl's picture

And no snowflakes were melt. Odd.

Anyway, hope those guys had some bacon handy. Nothing says 'Murica better than some glow-in-the-dark pork.

Joking aside, a few more stunts like this and Mexico will look mighty appealing

Mexico is Now Second Deadliest Conflict Zone after Syria


Oh regional Indian's picture

While Nukular power is a joke, this shite is dangerous.... and hwo conveniently, just like Japan, most American nukular facilites are in/on seismic zones....

Plus, what is with all that rust and what looks like super shoddy maintainence? It looks liek they want something to fail, conveniently.... I've seen better looking abandoned factories in the rust belt...


Ms No's picture

I posted this at the end of the thread somewhere but check this out.  Listen to this video and audio of what dispatch said after the collapse discovery.  Hanford dispatch: "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".... Cowles family shit news: "As the day went on the news got better"  ???


fbazzrea's picture

he guys from Fukushima will know how to clean this up.

ummm... i think they're all dead or dying. at least, the original crews.

AGuy's picture

"Thing is, the isotope they get from that, U-233, is accompanied by U-232, since these nuclear things are always messy. Both of the isotopes are fissionable, I believe. But U-232 is too 'hot' and unstable to be useful for weapons."

Only odd number isotopes are fissiable. U-232 is inert for fission. However can can certainly build a bomb using U-233 as the US did in in 1953. Thorium reactors can produce Plutonium by including U-238 in the reactor. Thorium isn't used because it just sucks, and much more hazordous to mine and refine. Another issue is U-232 which produces a hard gamma emission which is very difficult to sheild, It makes very dangerous to remove spent fuel from the reactor.

johngaltfla's picture

Why does this story and the misleading information from the plant and government remind me of a song by The Vapors called "Turning Japanese"...


Not Too Important's picture

The West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill disaster isn't about thorium. It's possibly the worst domestic nuclear disaster in US history, one that is ongoing and will contaminate the US for centuries:

From the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists':

"On July 16, 1973, 28 years to the day after the first nuclear weapon was exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico, a line of dump trucks containing the detritus from the uranium used to make plutonium for the test bomb showed up at the West Lake landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri. Assuming the trucks were loaded with clean fill, the landfill superintendent waved them through without charging a dumping fee. A truck driver said later that he and others used the black stuff in their home gardens. By October several thousand shipments were illegally dumped at the landfill in north St. Louis County, in violation of federal standards; they contained an estimated 43,000 tons of radioactive uranium processing wastes and contaminated soil

Now under the national news media spotlight, a landfill adjoined to the West Lake dump has experienced a growing underground fire for the past five years. The fire is estimated to be about 1,000 feet from the radioactive material. Consultants for Missouri Attorney General Kris Koster indicated in November 2015 that, in the worst case, the fire could reach the radioactive material in a matter of a few months. An official for the Republic Corporation, which owns the landfill, contends the fire is moving away from the wastes.

If the fire reaches the radioactive wastes, the St. Louis County emergency plan warns, there is the “potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region.” 

Emergency responders in the neighboring state of Illinois are being warned to prepare to deal with potentially contaminated evacuees. Children in four school districts near the landfill have brought letters home advising parents that children would either be evacuated or sheltered in place, should the fire reach the radioactive wastes."

Full horrific story:


Note: Because there is no barrier liner underneath the nuclear waste, it has spread through the soil across the entire facility. The fire started in an area not 'officially' nuclear waste, but the trash there was saturated with nuclear waste that had leached through the soil, including up into surrounding trees and shrubbery. The fire has now certainly been burning directly in the area of the most hazardous of the nuclear waste areas, and as the author states, will burn for centuries, contaminating the entire mid-West and Eastern Seaboard.

If you think there will be a problem when the US economy crashes, imagine what will happen when our food supply is no longer safe to eat.


AGuy's picture

"We really need thorium/breeder reactors if for no other reason than to get rid of all these dangerous radioactive materials."

Thorium solves nothing, and has the same issues. Its still produces radioactive isotopes, and nobody wants to work in a Thorium mine, unless you willing to do it personally. Nor would Thorium reactors make the existing problems go away.

"LWRs are madness made steel and concrete."

All Nuclear reactors are madness.

Mr. Bones's picture

Which problems?  There's no high pressure radioactive material, it can be closed cycle, it can passively shut down and the nuclear waste that it does produce has a much shorter half life by an order of magnitude.

If we're going to stay with LWRs then we need to setup a reprocessing facility like the French (!) and stop storing this shit, neglected, in tunnels.


froze25's picture

The breeder reactors are a good piece of tech, and that is why we aren't using them. You know just because.

BaBaBouy's picture

That Place Looks Very Terribly Safe...

hedgeless_horseman's picture


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.

What could possibly go wrong?

Not a place I would choose to live downwind.

Raffie's picture

I wanted to make Joke Water to sell few years ago.

Would be a regular 12oz plastic bottle of water. The picture has the Columbia river and a green steam flowing into it and in the background Hanford with tilted reactor towers. Would call it Hanford Sparkling Sprinmgs Water. The mottoe would be "The water people die for (over)"

Chupacabra-322's picture

@ Hedgeless,

Sounds like another one of those:

"Never let a good crises go to waste"
-Rahman Scum Fuck Criminal Emmanuel

moments doesn't it?

Bytor325's picture

The entire f****ng country is downwind

logicalman's picture

There's so much nuclear mess out there that EVERYONE ON THE PLANET IS DOWNWIND.

unrulian's picture

Wranglerstar Lives just down the road

jsgibson's picture

A timber framed fallout shelter may be his next project.

Maltese Beagle's picture

So you live on the far west coast?

toady's picture

Rawles always likes to say anything east of Montana & the Dakotas is down wind.... the problem is that nearly everywhere is down wind of somewhere... even the redoubt! Hell, the whole west coast is down current from fukishima! 

Handful of Dust's picture

This has to be Fake News. The energy facility just has a team of nucular experts from Japan inspect the unit only 20 years ago.


They said "everything was awesome!"

Not Too Important's picture

In the beginning Japan.gov said if you smile, the radiation won't harm you.

Now they're dropping like flies, not counting the abortions.

The excuse is, they didn't smile enough.

gaoptimize's picture

There are more than 100 cooling ponds around the USA that, should there be a grid down for more than 2 weeks, would cook off their water and be little Fukashimas.  The American Redoubt is about as good as you can get in the Northern Hemisphere.

Not Too Important's picture

People just don't get this, yet US.gov won't spend a dime towards EMP proofing the US power grid:

'An Obama Parting Shot: No Nuclear EMP Protection'

"The Congressional EMP Commission warns that nuclear-armed rogue states or terrorists could make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year — killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.

Yet, as the Obama administration goes out the door on its very last day, Jan.19, its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is poised to pass a standard that is grossly inadequate to protect the nation from natural EMP, from solar storms, and that will make it much more difficult and expensive to pass future standards to protect the nation from nuclear EMP attack."

"I wish to urgently inform you of a scheduled Jan. 19 ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on EMP protection of the U.S. Bulk Power System, the high-voltage portion of the U.S. national electric power grids. The planned ruling is likely to have far-ranging, seriously counterproductive national security implications."

“FERC currently plans to finalize a standard for only the natural occurring slow EMP called E3 and ignore the nuclear-weapon-generated EMP; however, the E3 component of EMP from high-altitude nuclear explosions can have higher amplitudes than the GMD E3, and there is also a substantially higher, intense electromagnetic fast pulse (E1) produced only by high-altitude nuclear weapons.

"Significantly, similar commercially-available equipment can be used to protect against nuclear EMP (E3) and naturally-occurring GMD EMP (E3), but comprehensive nuclear EMP protection also requires protection against E1.

"The cost to comprehensively protect the entire U.S. grid from both E1 and nuclear and naturally occurring E3 would be modest if integrated with geomagnetic disturbance protection, and much of that could be recovered by utilities from their ratepayers at a very low per capita cost.

"Despite several objections filed with the FERC, its ruling planned for 19 January has been carefully crafted to address only natural EMP. We expect that several duly filed requests for administrative rehearing are planned to be denied on 19 January.

"Once FERC makes its final ruling on the regulatory standard for only GMD EMP protection, it will be both difficult and more expensive to replace with the necessary comprehensive standard that integrates the nuclear EMP protection."

"Again, this is a matter that could have a significant, near-term impact on our national security, especially in view of recent moves by North Korea to establish an EMP-attack capability with ICBMs, nuclear missile-carrying submarines, and satellites."


William R. Graham
Chairman Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack



As of today, there is zero protection across the United States against any form of nuclear-instigated EMP. None.

The US has been planning for nuclear war for going on 70 years, knowing full well the proliferation of nuclear weapons across the globe, and never once did a single damn thing to protect this country, or any of the 350 million people living here, other than spend trillions of taxpayer dollars to build underground tunnels and bunkers to protect a handful of the 'elite'.

This is treason, pure and simple.

finametrics's picture

about the author:


James Rawles is outspokenly anti-racist and pro-Israel.



GUS100CORRINA's picture

Hedgless Horseman ... You are correct.

I have some charts regarding 'RADIATION EVACUATION ZONES AROUND NUCLEAR FACILITIES' that would turn people's faces WHITE! 

There is absolutely no where to hide on the east and west coasts of the USA. In addition, the AMERICAN REDOUBT movement is too far west. The CALDERA in the west make the AMERICAN REDOUBT location a real problem.

Repeating Albert Einstein: "Nuclear power is one HELL of a way to BOIL WATER."

We have lost our collective minds by embarking on the path of nuclear power, especially since we have clean, cheap and abundant natural gas.

Professing to be wise, they became fools. GOD is laughing at us in heaven.

Not Too Important's picture

I don't know if God is laughing, but the slate is being cleaned as we speak.

The Fukushima radiation has killed the Pacific Ocean, and it's now in the rain cycle, spreading across the planet.

All rain is nuclear now, and increasing in lethality.

JRobby's picture

DIRECTOR : "I think we need martial law"

WELL PAID YES MAN FLUNKY: "In Washington? Or in neighboring states too?"

DIRECTOR: "Nationwide!"



REACTIONARY LIBERAL: "AHHHHHH! We're gonna fucking melt! AHHHHHHHH! Nuked!!! Ahhhhh!"

Upland27's picture

too bad the invite is open to tribe members.


How smug and California Snowflake Lib Tard could a nasty petulant small minded dig at John Wesley Rawles get ?

Congratulations on inferring or wishing misfortune on a fellow traveller.

Honestly Hedgeless, you all been sucking Congressman farts, or drinking Jerry Brown Koolaid lately in some of your posts.

Maybe eating all that Fukushima tuna, and breathing all that radioactive salt spray rolling inland from the Pacific has clustered your fuck. 

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Robot Trader was doing shit like this towards the end as well........................... 

So, live by the sword, die by the sword. Asshole.