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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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.
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. Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
“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: Continue reading »
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.” Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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
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… Continue reading »
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. Continue reading »
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 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. Continue reading »
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.
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.
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.
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.
KING 5 News, Susannah Frame, Mar. 25, 2014: Hanford sources tell the KING 5 Investigators that at least 11 people have gotten sick in the last six days after breathing in toxic fumes while working near underground tanks holding hazardous nuclear waste. […] The first two workers to fall ill in the last week breathed in fumes that “tasted like copper” on Wednesday, March 19. […] both are still suffering effects of breathing in the vapors: headache, chest pain, difficulty breathing, nose bleeds and sore throats. One employee has coughed up blood. Sources who work in this area of Hanford tell KING […] this is “extremely unusual” to have symptoms persist this long. The next batch of employees to get sick breathed in fumes today, Tuesday, March 25. Four WRPS employees breathed in vapors at 9:00 am and were immediately transported to a medical facility […] the tank farm, identified as AY-AZ farm was evacuated […] Immediately afterward two employees from what’s known as the industrial hygiene department of WRPS [Washington River Protection Solutions], who monitor chemical exposures, were sent out to investigate and they too, had reactions to the fumes and were transported to the onsite medical facility. […] Sources tell KING 5 that three additional employees got sick from ingesting fumes later on Tuesday. These WRPS employees were working in a different portion of the tank farm […] about 8 to 10 miles from the AY-AZ farm. That location was also deemed a Vapor Control Zone and was evacuated. Sources say two were transported to the hospital by ambulance and one was transported to the HPMC. Continue reading »
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent: Yakima Valley, Washington, a horrible medical mystery has unfolded — An alarming rate of birth defects. Sara Barron, a nurse in the region and was the first to report cases of anencephaly, babies born with much of their brain and skull missing. Continue reading »
“Significant construction flaws” have been found in at least 6 of the 28 double shelled radioactive waste storage tanks at the Hanford nuclear waste complex in Washington State, which may lead to additional leaks, documents obtained by the AP say.
After one of the 28 huge underground double shelled tanks was found to be leaking in 2012, subsequent surveys performed for the US Department of Energy by one of its Hanford contractors found that at least six of the other tanks shared the same defects, according to the documents. A further 13 tanks may also be compromised, the inspectors found.
Seattle Times, Feb. 28, 2014 (emphasis added): ‘Serious problem’: 65-foot crack found in Columbia River dam — A massive crack in a major Columbia River dam poses enough of a risk of dam failure that Grant County authorities have activated an emergency-response plan. […] “At this point we already know there’s a serious problem,” said Thomas Stredwick, spokesman for the Grant County Public Utility District (PUD). “We want to make sure the spillway is stable enough that inspectors are safe when inspecting it. […] This is a situation that’s really changing as more information becomes available” […]
Seattle Times, Feb. 28, 2014: There’s no immediate threat to public safety from the crack in the Wanapum Dam […] Stredwick said […] officials analyzed the divers’ data and decided Friday that the failure risk was sufficiently high that they should notify other government agencies […]
Columbia Basin Herald, Mar. 1, 2014: [T]his large of a crack has never been found on a Grant PUD dam. […] engineers noticed something unusual on the water level […] the crack, which spans the entire length of the dam, had formed about 70 feet under water.
KUNM (NPR affiliate), Feb. 20, 2014: Highest Ever Radiation Levels Detected In Air Above Nuclear Waste Facility […] Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, said Wednesday a monitor near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico has detected trace amounts of the radioactive isotopes americium and plutonium. He says the levels are the highest ever detected at or around the site […]
NBC News, Feb. 17, 2014: ‘Bizarre’ Cluster of Severe Birth Defects Haunts Health Experts — A mysterious cluster of severe birth defects in rural Washington state [and] reports of new cases continue to climb. Federal and state officials won’t say how many women in a three-county area near Yakima, Wash., have had babies with anencephaly, a heart-breaking condition in which they’re born missing parts of the brain or skull. And they admit they haven’t interviewed any of the women in question, or told the mothers there’s a potentially widespread problem. […] nearly two dozen cases in three years, a rate four times the national average […] Susie Ball of the Central Washington Genetics Program at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, says she has reported “eight or nine” additional cases of anencephaly and spina bifida […] The agencies released a report last summer detailing an investigation of 27 women with pregnancies that resulted in neural tube defects in Yakima, Franklin and Benton counties between 2010 and 2013. […] Health officials originally were alerted to the problem by a nurse, Sara Barron, 58 […] A 30-year nursing veteran, she’d seen perhaps one or two devastating cases of anencephaly in her wide-ranging career [then saw 2 in 6-month period of ~180 total births]. […] At a regional medical meeting, there were more anecdotal reports. […] CDC and state officials refused to tell NBC News how many new cases they’d received in 2013 […]
A whistleblower who raised safety concerns at the US most polluted nuclear weapons production site has been fired.
Donna Busche, 50, was dismissed from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on Tuesday morning after she filed a complaint about design and safety of an unfinished waste treatment plant at the factory, the Associated Press reports.
Busche worked for URS Corp., which is helping build a $12 billion plant to turn Hanford’s most dangerous wastes into glass. She has filed complaints with the federal government, alleging she has suffered retaliation since filing her original safety complaint in 2011.
The Hanford Site was created before World War II as part of the United States’ top-secret atomic bomb project. Now, it is the most US contaminated nuclear site located on the Columbia River in the state of Washington, with cleanup costs running around $2 billion annually.
The plant is trying to clean up 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons arsenal. According to AP, the waste is stored in 177 aging underground tanks, many of which have leaked.
KING 5 News, Nov. 1, 2013:Hanford whistleblower: ‘I was now the enemy’ […] [Dr. Walt] Tamosaitis determined that the mixers, as designed, would not be able to mix the waste sufficiently, posing a risk that heavy radioactive elements would collect at the bottom of the tanks and begin a nuclear chain reaction. The reaction, in turn, would generate large amounts of explosive hydrogen gas (a similar hydrogen build up at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan caused large explosions after the 2011 Tsunami damaged that facility). […] “The worst case scenario would be a criticality and trapping of hydrogen gas which could lead to a hydrogen explosion,” said Tamosaitis. […] URS moved Tamosaitis to another building where he was assigned to a makeshift office in the basement. He sat alone in a cramped space full of storage boxes, rat poison feeders and copy machines. He was not assigned any work and had no boss to report to. “The message was, ‘Don’t do what Walter did. Don’t raise issues. Shut up (and) do what we say,’” said Tamosaitis. […] The Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board and the Government Accountability Office both issued reports highlighting Tamosaitis’ work. And in early 2012 Energy Secretary Steven Chu ordered a halt to WTP construction.
New York Times, Aug. 5, 2013: After Charles D. Varnadore complained about safety at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory […] his bosses moved him to an office containing radioactive waste. When an industrial hygienist recommended that either he or the waste be moved, he was put in a room contaminated with mercury [“visible mercury was in several places”]. […] His difficulties began in 1990, after he returned to work following colon cancer surgery. He found that his replacement had shortcomings in handling lab samples, and he pointed this out to his superiors […] he was given a storage room as an office […] The room contained bags and drums of radioactive waste, as well as bags of asbestos and chemical waste. […] “The only conclusion which can be drawn from this record is that they intentionally put him under stress with full knowledge that he was a cancer patient recovering from extensive surgery and lengthy chemotherapy,” the judge, Theodor P. Von Brand, wrote in his decision. […] Judge Von Brand sent the matter to the labor secretary, Robert B. Reich [who] dismissed some of Mr. Varnadore’s charges on the ground that they had been filed too late, and he dismissed others because he did not believe that they had been proved conclusively. […]
Perhaps Mr. Tomaisitis would disagree with these statements in the New York Times article:
Mr. Varnadore’s complaints also led to stronger laws and practices governing employees who dare to blow the whistle on powerful employers
“No other whistle-blower will ever be treated that way again,” [said Varnadore’s lawyer]
The first ever double-shell tank to have leaked at Hanford may be in far worse condition than anyone imagined. Hanford workers conducting routine maintenance on the tank Thursday were shocked to find readings of radioactivity from material outside the tank. Until now leaked nuclear sludge had only been detected in what’s known as the tank’s annulus – the hollow safety space between the tank’s two walls.
The tank, known as AY-102, has been at the center of a KING 5 investigation for months. The underground carbon steel vessel holds 865,000 gallons of the most chemically contaminated, thermally hot, corrosive and radioactive material at the site.
The new Secretary of Energy has been on the job only four weeks, but he made a beeline Wednesday to see his biggest headache for himself. Ernest Moniz went to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.Hanford made the plutonium for American nuclear weapons from the Manhattan Project in World War II until 1987. Now, highly radioactive waste is leaking, and a project to clean it up has stalled.
The clean-up at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation costs U.S. taxpayers $2 billion every year. This winter, engineers discovered six new leaks of radioactive material from underground tanks.
“There’s something on the order of 1,000 gallons a year that are leaking now from these six tanks,” says Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The leak in a massive underground double-shell nuclear waste tank at the Hanford Site has grown significantly since the leak was first announced to the public last fall, according to sources who have seen new inspection video and photographs.
The tank — known as AY-102 — holds 860,000 gallons of radioactive waste generated during decades ofplutonium production at the southeastern Washington reservation.
The most toxic and voluminous nuclear waste in the U.S.—208 million liters —sits in decaying underground tanks at the Hanford Site (a nuclear reservation) in southeastern Washington State. It accumulated there from the middle of World War II, when the Manhattan Project invented the first nuclear weapon, to 1987, when the last reactor shut down. The federal government’s current attempt at a permanent solution for safely storing that waste for centuries—the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant here—has hit a major snag in the form of potential chain reactions, hydrogen explosions and leaks from metal corrosion. And the revelation last February that six more of the storage tanks are currently leaking has further ramped up the pressure for resolution.
After decades of research, experimentation and political inertia, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) started building the “Vit Plant” at Hanford in 2000. It’s intended to sequester the waste in stainless steel–encased glass logs, a process known as vitrification (hence “Vit”), so it cannot escape into the environment, barring natural disasters like earthquakes or catastrophic fires. But progress on the plant slowed to a crawl last August, when numerous interested parties acknowledged that the plant’s design might present serious safety risks. In response, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu appointed an expert panel to find a way forward. Because 60 of the 177 underground tanks have already leaked and all are at increasing risk to do so, solving the problem is urgent. Continue reading »