Radioactive Plutonium Detected In Air Near Hanford Nuclear Facility

Just ten days after the emergency at Washington's Hanford nuclear facility in early May, when a tunnel collapse prompted concerns about radioactive waste fallout as we described then in "'Serious Situation' After Tunnel Collapse At WA Nuclear Facility; Evacuation Ordered, No-Fly Zone In Place", we reported that the U.S. Department of Energy was scrambling to deal with a second emergency, when signs emerged that a massive underground double shell nuclear waste holding tank may also be leaking. As reported then, the tank in question - AZ 101 - was put into service in 1976, with a life expectancy of 20 years. Through 2017, it has been holding hot, boiling radioactive and chemically contaminated waste for 41 years.

As a reminder, prior to this second leak, on May 9 workers found a 20 by 20 foot cave in of a tunnel used to store highly radioactive and chemically contaminated equipment from the Cold War-era. Worse still, as The Wall Street Journal reported at the time, a worker’s clothing was exposed to radioactive contamination at the site, in what Gov. Jay Inslee called an “alarming incident” that should prompt federal officials to expedite their cleanup of the decommissioned facility. Detection equipment was then used to check for contamination that might have become airborne and adhered to the workers.

The radioactive material was found in three spots: on a worker's shoe, his shirt, and his pants in the knee area. According to workers in the field, the contaminated items were removed, bagged and appropriately disposed of.

Following these incidents, all newsflow involving Hanford and its erratic leaks of radioactive material faded away, even as concerns grew that leaks at the radioactive facility were not being addressed.

In retrospect, the concerns were justified because according to KATU2, on Tuesday health officials confirmed low plutonium levels in the air near the Hanford nuclear reservation.

State of Washington's Department of Health's (DOH) workers analyzed samples taken June 8, 2017 and detected levels of contamination near the Rattlesnake Barricade, according to Hanford officials.

Health officials collected the samples following an airborne release of radioactive particles during demolition of the highly contaminated facility. As reported at the time, on June 8, in yet another incident at Hanford, employees in the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) were told to take cover inside the facility as a precaution after an air monitor alarmed. The monitor went off in a demolition area as crews were demolishing part of the PFP. About 350 Hanford workers took cover according to Hanford news.

While the DOH has reported that "contamination levels were very low and do not pose a health risk", the general public - still on edge from the May and June incidents - has little if any confidence left in the official narrative involving the threats posed by Hanford.

The Department of Energy and the DOH are investigating these findings. So far, they have not determined the cause.


Son of Captain Nemo Tue, 08/08/2017 - 21:59 Permalink

When you finally realize that the deranged lunatics running "you" after 9/11 ( 3/11 (…)... and now this (…) (…)... Don't give a fuck about you or themselves!



Ms No Tue, 08/08/2017 - 21:57 Permalink

Government officials are never held accountable for anything.  Whoever signed off or allowed that temporary tank to store radioactive waste for this long should be put in handcuffs immediately.  Every single scientist and government employee involved in the intentional disbursement experiments at Hanford back in the day should be arrested, if any of them are still alive.  There should be constant hearings and investigations and until every last on of those pricks is found. The taxpayer gets radiated and then has to pay for cleanup.  This is why our founders didn't allow for secret government agencies.  We have psychopathic madmen at the helm of everything with no oversight and complete immunity.  It might also be a good idea to take away the pardon because the one time you get to nail of these banking oligarch agents they get off, like with Scooter Libby. 

Utopia Planitia Tue, 08/08/2017 - 21:59 Permalink

Hanford could have been cleaned up decades ago had it not become an eternal rallying point for demoncrats, environmentalists, and labor unions.  None of those groups want it to end because then they would have to find another "thing" to be against. (in the case of labor unions a way to milk $$Billions$$ out of the taxpayer)  We had technology and processes to finish that project well developed in the early 80's but oh no, we can't have that! (I worked extensively on that project until I got fed up with the political hot-potato dance that made it clear things would never progress.)

Mikeyyy Utopia Planitia Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:11 Permalink

That is complete and utter bullshit. The amount of money necessary to "clean up" Hanford has never been allocated. Even today, the annual budget of the DOE is $30 billion. The whole DOE. Hanford gets a tenth of that.

It would take untold billions more to actually clean it up. There are 56 millions gallons of high-level waste. 56 million. And what you might ask is "high-level waste"? Stuff that if you're exposed to for even a few seconds is a fatal dose.

So think about it ZH'ers. How much money do you think it would take to clean up that much waste? Think $3 billion a year is enough? And think about this, do you want Rick Perry in charge of this department?

In reply to by Utopia Planitia

BrownCoat Mikeyyy Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:51 Permalink

@ Mikeyyy,You are saying it will take $30 billion times 10 to "clean up" nuclear waste. Define clean up. How are you going to fix nuclear waste with a half-life of say 24,000 years?!!Fuking govt wants more money for a disaster it created and has no intention of fixing. With any luck, these govt fuks can spend their entire career doing "clean up."

In reply to by Mikeyyy

Mikeyyy sinbad2 Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:24 Permalink

Sorry pal, you're too optimistic by millions of years. The half-life of plutonium is 4 1/2 million years. So you were off by 4.4 million years.

Here's the real reality. "They simply dumped 120 million gallons of high-level waste, and another 444 billion gallons of contaminated liquid, into the ground. They piled uranium (half-life: 4.5 billion years) into unlined pits near the Columbia River. They dug 42 miles of trenches to dispose of solid radioactive waste—and left no good records of what’s in the trenches."

And ladies and gentlemen, Donald fucking Trump put Rick Perry in charge of the cleanup. Thanks, you assholes. You proud of yourselves?

In reply to by sinbad2

Golden Showers Tue, 08/08/2017 - 22:19 Permalink

I rode my bike past a really nice nuclear power plant around Rainier, Oregon called the Trojan NPP back in '05. Nice little place out there. An awesome place to have a picnic. Little water reactor over here, yummy blackberries over there. Lots of green. Actually, riding up on that scared the shit out of me. Off a little two lane back road and all of a sudden there's this huge fucking hyperbolide tower.Here's one thing I come to figure on: if you can't read the sign to the Nuclear Reactor Entrance, best to move on.

aloha_snakbar Tue, 08/08/2017 - 22:58 Permalink

Awww... nothing to worry about, at least not until the Cascadia fault zone gets hit with a big earthquake in the next month or so. Then that would be a good time to worry...

Rebelrebel7 (not verified) Tue, 08/08/2017 - 23:56 Permalink

It's called a nuclear chain reaction. Once the process of nuclear fission starts, the only way to stop it, is nuclear fusion, which is explosive.

LindseyNarrate… (not verified) Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:26 Permalink

Ladies and Gentlemen, I PRAY-TO-CHRIST that I do not have to be the one to tell you, all, the fact-as-it-is, AND THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW THIS, but all that it takes is ONE MICROSCOPIC "HOT" PARTICLE OF PLUTONIUM TO GIVE A HUMAN-BEING A 100% CHANCE FOR LETHAL LUNG-CANCER. This is a never-ending nightmare... Lindsey NB:  The size of that "hot" particle, for-the-record?  1/billionth-of-one-gram. ...

kudocast Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:39 Permalink

Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Trash Heap Deadly for 250,000 Years.  Homo sapiens have been around about 250,000 years. The Ice Age was about 10,000 years ago.Do the unelected bureaucrats that are running the nuclear industry, military, and agencies around the world really think they will be able to store radioactive waste safely for as long as homo sapiens have been on the planet earth?  They can't even safely store it for a few decades.  Fukushima dumps tons of radioactive material into the ocean all day every day.Looks like everyone is fucked.

JailBanksters Wed, 08/09/2017 - 03:52 Permalink

Even with plain old UraniumThe US is using more Nuclear Fuel and storing Nuclear Waste faster than the Nuclear Waste can be rendered harmless.And it growing at an exponetial rate, much like the US Debt.In a thousand years, the US is going to swimming in Nuclear Waste.  

squid Wed, 08/09/2017 - 08:34 Permalink

So let's see......So it's "radioactive Plutonium" eh? Is there any other kind of plutonium? Just askin...... And while we're at it, another thought.They guys at Los Almos put together the fat man, an implosion plutonium device, using nothing but garden tongs and none of them got cancer or radiation poisoning. They all lived to their seventies and eighties. So why was plutonium not lethally poisonous in 1945 but in 2017 it's lethally poisonous? Just askin. Squid

Moving and Grooving Wed, 08/09/2017 - 10:40 Permalink

I've never been to Hanford, but I worked for a DOE contractor for a while, and one of the engineers told me this story. Would have been in the 80's. He went to Hanford for a conference on storage safety. While the lecture was going on, a man in a lab coat could be seen through the windows emerging from a rooftop door, walking to a 'sealed / locked' storage tank, and dumping a beaker of liquid down the tank's vent mast.  Some things never change.