Possible Radiation Release at Hanford Nuclear Reactor in Eastern Washington State
This may be bigger than Three Mile Island, the largest release of nuclear radiation in US history.
May 10, 2017
Buried like nuclear waste in the desert is a story broke today more important than the non-stop Cable News about Trump's firing of FBI Dir. James Comey. The tunnels where tons of spent nuclear rods are buried, have begun to collapse. The event threatens the release of radiation into the environment, just a few hundred yards from the Columbia riverbed.
This may be bigger than Three Mile Island, the largest release of nuclear radiation in US history. It could even turn into the US equivalent of Chernobyl
Energy Department officials said there was "no indication of a release of contamination at this point" but that crews were still testing the area. Responders also were using a robot to take video and survey the damage. The department said that Energy Secretary Rick Perry had been briefed, adding that "everyone has been accounted for and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release."
But Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there is still cause for concern. "It appears that this is a potentially serious event," he said. "Collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release."
An August 2015 report by Vanderbilt University's civil and environmental engineering department said the PUREX facility and the two tunnels had "the potential for significant on-site consequences" and that "various pieces of dangerous debris and equipment containing or contaminated with dangerous/mixed waste" had been placed inside the tunnels.
The Washington Post reports that hundreds of workers at the Department of Energy's Hanford nuclear site in Washington state had to "take cover" Tuesday morning after the collapse of 20-foot-long portion of a tunnel used to store contaminated radioactive materials.
The Energy Department said it activated its emergency operations protocol after reports of a "cave-in" at the 200 East Area in Hanford, a sprawling complex about 200 miles from Seattle where the government has been working to clean up radioactive materials left over from the country's nuclear weapons program.
The agency said in a statement that the 20-foot section is part of a tunnel that is hundreds of feet long and is "used to store contaminated materials." The tunnel is one of two that run into the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX. The section that collapsed was "in an area where the two tunnels join together," the department said.
The PUREX facility, once used to extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, has been idle for years but remains "highly contaminated," the agency said.