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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.”
Read moreBBC: 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)