Landslide in USA on May 09 2017 05:08 PM (UTC).
A worker at the Hanford nuclear reservation got radioactive contamination on his clothing this week during an incident at an underground waste-storage tank that indicated a possible leak. Contractor Washington River Protection Solutions said the worker was removing a robotic device out of the space between the double walls of Tank AZ-101 on Thursday evening. Monitors detected radiation at three times the expected level, and the workers left the area, said the company, which operates the storage tanks for the U.S. Department of Energy. Radioactive contamination was found on one worker's protective clothing, which was removed, the company said. Monitors showed no further contamination on that worker, and all members of the crew were cleared to return to normal duty, the contractor said. Hanford is near Richland, and for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons. Millions of gallons of the most dangerous wastes produced by that work are stored in 177 underground tanks, many of which are decades old and have leaked. This incident came after last week's accident in which the roof of a tunnel that contains nuclear waste partially collapsed at Hanford, prompting the evacuation of nearby workers. No one was injured in that event, and Hanford officials said no airborne release of radiation occurred. But Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday he was alarmed by the two incidents. "It is another urgent reminder that Congress needs to act, and they need to act quickly," Inslee said. "We expect the U.S. Department of Energy to immediately investigate and report on the source of contamination." State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the latest incident strengthens his resolve to force the Department of Energy to finish the cleanup of the sprawling site. That cleanup is forecast to last until 2060 and cost an additional $100 billion. "The risks at Hanford to workers and the environment are all too real, and today's news is just another illustration of how tenuous the situation is," Ferguson said Friday. "This isn't the first potential leak, and it won't be the last."
About 150 concrete ecology blocks were hauled by flatbed trucks to central Hanford over the weekend for the next step in stabilizing a partially collapsed tunnel holding radioactively contaminated waste. Officials plan to lay a flexible plastic covering over the soil berm above the oldest of the two PUREX plant tunnels used for long-term storage of contaminated equipment. The covering will run the entire length of the nearly 360-foot-long tunnel. The covering will not be laid until plans are finalized and the weather clears. The heavy blocks will hold down the edges of the plastic. Officials are waiting for a day with little wind. Gusts of up to 21 mph are forecast Tuesday for central Hanford by the National Weather Service. The covering will be used to keep any radioactively contaminated particles from becoming airborne, which could harm workers and the environment. It also should prevent rain from soaking into the eight feet of soil over the wooden roof of the tunnel, adding to the weight on the roof. On May 9 workers noticed that a section measuring about 20-by-20-feet had collapsed at the front of the tunnel and an emergency was declared at the nuclear reservation. No airborne radioactive contamination was detected. The breach has been filled with a mixture of sand and soil. In addition to the plastic covering, DOE is expected to take longer term actions. It could decide to fill the tunnel with grout. On Monday all remaining employees were told it was safe to return to work. All but a couple hundred based closest to PUREX returned to work on Thursday. People working at Hanford tank farms closest to PUREX were given alternate work sites on Monday. Because of the partial tunnel collapse, the Department of Energy and Hanford regulators are postponing a meeting to discuss Hanford environmental cleanup priorities. The meeting was planned for Wednesday. Staff have been too busy to prepare materials for the meeting because of the discovery last week of a partial collapse of a Hanford radioactive waste tunnel. DOE, the Washington State of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency traditionally hold a spring meeting to discuss the president's budget request to Congress for the coming year and the work priorities for the year after that. Although detailed federal budget information has not been released yet for the next fiscal year at the Hanford nuclear reservation, a meeting still was scheduled and a public comment period planned. The meeting will be rescheduled, according to the agencies.
A 20-foot hole in the roof of a tunnel at Washington state's Hanford nuclear waste site will be filled with clean soil, according to the US Department of Energy. Earlier in the day, workers noticed that a section of the tunnel had caved in. The tunnel -- which is made of wood and concrete and covered in 8 feet of soil -- was constructed during the Cold War to hold rail cars loaded with equipment that had been contaminated in the process of plutonium production. It has been sealed since the mid-1990s, according to the Department of Energy. The Hanford facility's 3,000 workers were ordered to shelter in place earlier in the day, but the order was lifted for non-essential employees hours later. "This hasn't happened before," Department of Energy spokesman Mark Heeter told CNN. "There are various projects in this site and occasionally there is spread of contamination." But never, he said, has there been a tunnel collapse. Hours after authorities scrambled to respond, they determined there is no initial evidence that workers have been exposed to radiation or that there has been an "airborne radiological release." "All personnel are accounted for, there are no injuries," Hanford emergency center spokesman Destry Henderson said. "There is no evidence of a radiological release." The accident sparked an alert at 8:26 a.m. That prompted federal officials to activate an emergency operations center at the breached tunnel -- next to the Hanford Site's Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as the PUREX facility.
A nuclear cleanup facility at Hanford, one of the biggest, most complex superfund sites in the country, has been evacuated and workers in the vicinity have been instructed to "shelter in place." At 8:26 this morning, the Hanford Emergency Operations Center jumped into action after an alert regarding subsidence of soil covering old railroad tunnels that contain contaminated materials. Susannah Frame of KING 5 reports that the "subsidence" concern translates into a collapsed tunnel, and hundreds of workers at Hanford have been instructed to stay inside and not to eat or drink anything. There isn't much more we know at the moment-the media lines are busy. We do know that access to the area where the alert was generated, 200 East Area, has been "restricted." The Department of Energy says that Energy Secretary Rick Perry (jesus) has been briefed on the Hanford situation, "and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release." Hanford officials say there is still no evidence of environmental contamination from the tunnel, and that crews have been surveying the area near the tunnels for contamination. A remotely controlled robot, called a TALON, is also monitoring the area for contamination and taking video. Senator Maria Cantwell says that she is closely monitoring reports of "collapsed train tunnels," which house rail cars that contain radioactive materials. "I have been in touch with labor leaders, and in contact with the Department of Energy and contractors at the site," Cantwell said. "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." Washington governor Jay Inslee released a statement on the emergency, saying that the Department of Energy informed the state that "a tunnel was breached that was used to bury radioactive waste." The White House reached out to the governor's office about the emergency, too.
The Oregon Department of Energy has activated its emergency operation center in response to an emergency at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. ODOE officials are coordinating with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Health Authority and nuclear safety experts at Oregon State University, ODOE spokeswoman Rachel Wray said Tuesday morning. "Hanford is 35 miles away from Oregon," Wray said. "We are concerned about Oregonians' health and that concerns the food we eat." The U.S. Department of Energy declared an emergency at the site at 8:26 a.m. Tuesday after a routine check found that a portion of a storage tunnel that contains radioactive waste had collapsed. The tunnels are hundreds of feet long and are covered by about eight feet of soil. The Hanford Fire Department is on scene and is reporting that the tunnel has caved in in an area approximately 20 feet by 20 feet over one of the tunnels next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, or PUREX. There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a news release. There were no workers in the tunnel when it collapsed. Workers in that area of the site have been evacuated, and those in potentially affected areas have been told to stay indoors. Hanford is located on the Columbia River near Richland, Wash. It has more than 9,000 employees. About 29,000 Oregonians live in the nearby communities of Boardman, Irrigon, Hermiston and Umatilla.
The federal government evacuated some workers at a former nuclear weapons production site in Washington state Tuesday after concerns about shifting soil near tunnels containing contaminated material at the Hanford Site. "There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility. The tunnels contain contaminated materials," the US Department of Energy said in a statement. Workers in other areas of the Hanford Site have been told to stay inside.