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Just under two weeks since the emergency at the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state (following a tunnel collapse), NBC’s local affiliate King5 reports Hanford’s owner, The U.S. Department of Energy, is scrambling to deal with a second emergency – signs have emerged that a massive underground double shell nuclear waste holding tank may be leaking.
The tank is known as AZ 101 and was put into service in 1976. The tank’s life was expected to be 20 years. Now it has been holding hot, boiling radioactive and chemically contaminated waste for 41 years.
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.
The US Environmental Protection Agency chalked elevated gamma radiation levels around America’s largest nuclear waste storage facility, the Hanford site, up to natural causes, but RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has found a few inconsistences in its claims.
RT has reported extensively on the situation at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear storage facility since various leaks and injuries to workers were reported. An incident on May 5th covered by RT, when radiation levels in the area adjacent to the site skyrocketed, prompted a federal investigation.
However, following the RT report, a local newspaper urged its audience not to “believe everything on the Internet” in an article extensively quoting a statement from the EPA that claimed the elevated radiation levels had a natural cause and were not connected to the Hanford facility in any way.
SPOKANE, Washington — Officials for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are trying to determine if a second giant underground tank containing radioactive waste from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons is leaking, the U.S. Department of Energy revealed on Tuesday.
Air monitors attached to an aging tank known as AY-101 recently found radiation at higher than normal background levels, the agency said.
Thousands of gallons of radioactive waste leaked from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Site in Washington State, as workers pumped sludge from the tank during the weekend. “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.
The ongoing 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.
Tri-City Herald, Feb 21, 2016 (emphasis added): The Environmental Protection Agency has called the uncontrolled spread of small amounts of radioactive waste at Hanford “alarming” after a Nov. 17 windstorm. Surveys six miles north of Richland after the winds subsided found specks of contamination… The waste came from research and uranium fuel fabrication work… [W]inds were worse than usual… and Hanford officials knew they were going to have issues… “Washington Closure Hanford went out and started surveying to understand how far the contamination had spread,” said Stacy Charboneau, manager of the DOE Richland Operations Office… The waste had high levels of radioactive isotopes that grout does not bind well, said Dennis Faulk, EPA Hanford program manager.
– Hanford Nuclear Site: Workers Suffering Severe Brain Damage, Dementia – Toxic Waste Raining Down From Sky, Wore Baseball Caps For Protection – Brains Being Eaten Sway, Teeth Falling Out – Workers Raising Safety Issues Framed Using False Evidence, Fired
More info here:
On Sunday, we brought you “Huge Fukushima Cover-Up Exposed, Government Scientists In Meltdown,” in which we highlighted a piece from Sean Adl-Tabatabai who asks whether government-funded researchers are intentionally downplaying rising levels of radiation in the Pacific Ocean stemming from the 2011 meltdown in Japan.
“In March 2011, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered multiple meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami. The exploding reactors sprayed massive amounts of radioactive material into the air, most of which settled into the Pacific Ocean,” Adl-Tabatabai writes, adding that “a study presented at the conference of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on Dec. 14, shows that radiation levels from Alaska to California have increased since samples were last taken.”
But while Adl-Tabatabai worries that perhaps Americans are getting a sugar-coated version of story thanks to the fact that the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has received millions in government funding, he may be overestimating the public’s interest in the dangers of being exposed to nuclear waste because as AP reports, “thousands of people are expected next year to tour the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home of the world’s first full-sized nuclear reactor, near Richland, about 200 miles east of Seattle in south-central Washington.” Here’s more:
H/t reader M.G.:
“This article related how communities around the world, including Fukushima, find the people to deal with nuclear disasters. Terrifying.”
– BBC: People taken from movie theater by police, forced to go in reactor and deal with burning fuel rods — TV: Military picked men off street to battle meltdown — Women, minorities, homeless, and prisoners used by nuclear industry for most dangerous work (VIDEO) (ENENews, July 4, 2015):
BBC, ‘Windscale – Britain’s Biggest Nuclear Disaster’ (emphasis added) — Tom Tuohy, deputy manager at Windscale plutonium production plant (at 8:00 in): “We were trying to push the burning fuel into the back of the reactor.” — But the heat had melted the cartridges, so they were stuck in the core… Radiation was so intense they could only work a few hours. They were running out of firefighters. — Neville Ramsden, Windscale health physicist: “The police from the [plutonium] factory had turned up looking for volunteers and they brought a bus. They decided the best way to get the volunteers was to go up to the cinema, and ‘volunteer’ the back 2 rows at the show to go… push the fuel rods out of the reactor.”
Yorkshire Television, ‘Children of Chernobyl’ (at 4:00 in): “When the robots broke down because of the extreme radioactivity, men were sent in to cleanup the site. They were not volunteers. They were picked up off the streets and press ganged [i.e. taken by force] onto the roof… In 90 seconds, they received their permissible lifetime dose of radiation. The men were sent home and forgotten… They do not figure in any official casualty lists.”
– Video: Cemetery blocks filled with babies downwind of US nuclear site — “This needs to be talked about, the children… murdered” — Mother: My newborns died within hours, tumors all over, brain disintegrated after massive stroke — “Body parts, cadavers, fetuses… the nuclear industry took in the dead of night… from all over US” (ENENews, Dec 16, 2014):
Kay Sutherland (Walla Walla, Washington) published Nov 8, 2010 (emphasis added):
- We’re in the Walla Walla Mountain View Cemetery standing where the babies’ graves are… Many children all died in the same era… (counting tombstones) 1950, 1950, 1950, 1950, 1945 — All of these babies need to have a voice in what Hanford has done. From this section… back towards my car, is all babies. Some of them do not have marked graves, my cousin was one.
- All of them here say ’48, ’49, ’48, ’48, ’48… ’55, ’55, ’56… ’48, ’48, ’48… This is what needs to be talked about — the children… our future, that Hanford murdered… ’46, ’46, ’46… this area must be the 1954 and ’55 area… It breaks your heart to know that there was so much sadness… because of a handful of men who decided to play god and took away… our life, our hope. ’62, ’62, ’62.
- My daughter [Jennifer] was born in 1963 [and is] buried here… double club feet… tumors throughout her body, an enlarged liver, and died from a massive stroke which disintegrated her brain. She lived 15 hours.
- It doesn’t even tell you about all the miscarriages… I myself had 4 miscarriages.
– “Like a Science Fiction Movie”: Bizarre deaths after radiation exposure at US nuclear site — My whole family’s dead; Mom eaten up by tumors everywhere, could see them growing; Dad had masses suddenly erupt all over; Brother died at birth — Incredible number of colleagues killed by cancer, 2-3% alive (VIDEO) (ENENews, Sep 19, 2014):
KING 5 News, Sept. 17, 2014: Investigators expose a continuing pattern… If you work [at Hanford] and speak up about safety concerns, watch out. Chances are you’ll be met with harassment, intimidation, and the end of your career… Hanford’s tank farms [hold] the deadliest substances on Earth… Shelly Doss: “If you just ignore [the rules]… you risk contaminating the person… contaminating the environment… These were blatant violations”… Managers [said] she was to ignore that and 5 other major violations… “They were very angry because they’d been getting away with it.”… After 23 years… Shelly Doss was… fired… In the last year, they fired… 2 high-profile Hanford managers who blew the whistle. >> Watch video here
– “It’s Terrifying”: Rapid rise in babies with missing brains and spinal cords sticking out in area surrounding most contaminated nuclear site in US — Mother: Actual number is WAY higher than officials are reporting (VIDEO) (ENENews, Sep 16, 2014):
Tweet by JoNel Aleccia, former NBC News reporter, Sept 2, 2014: Five pregnancies with anencephaly in Central WA state with due dates this year. State, CDC plan interviews w/ moms
After writing reports on the extremely high rate of babies missing part of their brain (anencephaly) in the 3 counties surrounding the Hanford nuclear site, Aleccia left NBC News. She is now a staff writer at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson1 Cancer Research Center and authored this Sept. 2, 2014 article: Outreach workers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are drawing on years of community connections in [the counties of Yakima, Benton, and Franklin] to raise awareness about a devastating cluster of severe birth defects that no one can explain… babies are born without parts of the skull and brain… 32 babies since 2010… there were five women in the region who reported they were pregnant with babies with anencephaly, all due later this year… “A lot of what we do is around cancer prevention, but when we hear of other things that also affect health disparities, we take it on.” State and federal officials are urging groups like the Fred Hutch team to help…
Plutonium, the deadliest substance on the planet, destroying lives.
– TV: 8 times more babies than usual born without brain near U.S. nuclear site; Much higher rate than anywhere else in country — “It’s scary the cause is such a mystery” — CNN: Experts speak out over failure of officials to conduct proper investigation (ENENews, June 23, 2014):
KEPR, May 14, 2014 (Emphasis Added): Serious and sometimes fatal birth defects are much more prevalent right here than anywhere else in the country. Benton, Franklin and Yakima Counties are being hit the hardest by neural tube defects, from spina bifida to anencephaly [fatal defect where large part of brain/skull is missing]. “it’s scary that the cause of this is such a mystery,” said Candelaria Murillo. […] Rate of babies being born without a brain in our part of the state is eight times the national average.
AP and other media outlets put the figure at “at least four times the national rate”. However, the Yakima Herald reports: “[Officials] issued a news release Jan. 30 announcing that eight cases of anencephaly had occurred in Yakima County in 2012. Typically [they] expect only one all year.”
NBC News, June 17, 2014: Health officials, scientists and other experts gathered to discuss the cause of an alarming local spike in the disorder […] [Local residents] wanted to know exactly how long the problem had been going on, whether it could be linked to diet, occupation, geography — or the Hanford nuclear plant in nearby Richland. State officials reiterated their previous answers — no, no, no and no […] “The next step is to interview the mothers and fathers of these babies,” [Allison Ashley-Koch, an anencephaly expert at the Duke University Medical Center for Human Genetics] said. “The challenge at this point is that many of these conceptions happened four years ago. So for parents to try and remember particular eating habits, environmental exposures and such is challenging.” […] “I believe it is an ongoing problem and I believe that the environment might have something to do with it,” Don Dufault said.
Added: Jun 9, 2014
The largest environmental clean-up effort in the world is going on right now in Washington state at the Hanford Site where tens of millions of gallons of radioactive waste is leaking into the ground. Sam Sacks is on the Redacted Frontlines to explore the legacy of nuclear power and nuclear waste in America.
– NBC stations reveal nuclear workers suffering severe brain damage, dementia — Toxic waste raining down from sky, wore baseball caps for protection — Brains being eaten away, teeth falling out — Workers raising safety issues framed using false evidence, fired — Gov’t not allowed in to investigate (VIDEO) (ENENews, June 6, 2014):
NBC Right Now, Apr. 30, 2014: Former Hanford Worker Sick from Nuclear Waste
- Jane Sander, reporter: A nuclear waste spill happened hours before at the tank farm.
- Lonnie Poteet, Hanford worker: I was already burning from my glove line to my t-shirt line and… starting to lose a little bit of vision in my right eye… Why didn’t they say something?
- Sander: Poteet describes living his life now as recluse… sharp pains in his head, they cause him to often twitch. He says medication prevents him from collapsing in pain due to severe nerve damage in his brain.
– NBC Right Now: Explosion at U.S. nuclear site — Kept secret from public — Happened in plant where plutonium was manufactured — “One of the most hazardous buildings” in America — Workers: “Flames shot out… big, loud bang like a shot gun” (VIDEO) (ENENews, May 4, 2014):
NBC Right Now (Yakima, WA), May 1, 2014 (h/t Stock): Hanford union workers tell NBC Right Now there was an explosion at the plutonium finishing plant cleanup site weeks ago, but the event wasn’t shared with the public. The Hanford union representative says it happened when workers were cutting some pipe as part of the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant [PFP]. The union representative wants to remain anonymous and says workers are concerned management isn’t putting worker safety first. […] Workers describe the explosion as a spark then flames that shot out of a pipe and a loud bang […] We’re told it happened two weeks ago […] Workers say they think the contractor is playing down the explosion and possible safety concerns to protect themselves from fines and work delays. […] The union representative says management wants to keep experienced workers quiet.
– Sick Hanford workers speak out for first time (King5, April 8, 2014):
Exposure to potentially harmful chemical vapors sent 26 workers at the Hanford Site to a Richland hospital or an on-site medical clinic in the two-week period starting March 19.
For the first time, two of those workers talk on camera with KING 5 about their experience — and the symptoms and problems they continue to exhibit nearly two weeks after breathing in vapors that vented from underground tanks and pipes that hold vast amounts of toxic chemicals and radioactive isotopes.
– America’s Most Contaminated Nuclear Site Is Vulnerable To Earthquakes (io9, April 4, 2014):
Nearly 2,000 capsules containing radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation need to be relocated. That’s because the site was built in an area that’s prone to earthquakes. How could this happen?
The facility, located in in southeastern Washington State, was the world’s largest producer of plutonium during the Cold War. Today, it is America’s most contaminated nuclear site, and the focus of an ongoing cleanup that is costing taxpayers some $2 billion per year.
The 1,936 capsules contain radioactive cesium and strontium that was previously buried in underground tanks, and then later moved into “wet storage”—a 13-foot-deep pool of water that helps cool the corrosive-proof containers, which account for 32 percent of the radioactivity at Hanford.
And, now, according to this Inspector General report from the US Department of Energy, the capsules in the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF) need to be moved yet again:
– TV: More workers rushed to hospital at U.S. nuclear site — 17 sickened in past week — Former Employee: “It’s pretty scary… to have this many in 8 days is really abnormal” — Company: We’re trying to understand what’s happening (VIDEO) (ENENews, March 27, 2014):
KING 5 News Seattle, Mar. 26, 2014: Hanford workers sickened by unknown vapors rises to 17 — The KING 5 Investigators have found that six Hanford workers were sickened Wednesday from ingesting chemical vapors at the nuclear facility. […] This brings the total to 17 Hanford employees who have needed medical care since last Wednesday due to the inhalation of toxic vapors. […] “Data collection and analysis is underway in the affected (tank) farms to understand what happened and what might be done to reduce the likelihood of future occurrences,” said [Jerry Holloway, External Affairs Manager at U.S. Dept. of Energy’s contractor Washington River Protection Solutions]. […] The incident Wednesday occurred in yet another location at the Hanford site […] Sources tell the reporter 17 people were working on the video inspection when three were suddenly sickened by the release of vapors.