Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Updates from Hanford

I shall add to this as more information comes to hand. There is some good discussion at the Facebook page of Mimi German, some of which I have included
BREAKING! Storage Tunnel Containing Rail Cars Full Of Radioactive Waste Has Collapsed At Hanford WA

Hundreds of workers were told to take cover at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation after a tunnel full of highly contaminated materials collapsed Tuesday morning. But officials say no radiation was released and no workers were hurt.

Officials say a collapsed patch of ground above the tunnel was larger than first believed. The U.S. Department of Energy said the collapse covered about 400 square feet (37.1 square meters) instead of the 16 square feet (1.4 square meters) first reported.

Hundreds of workers were told to go into a "take cover" position after the tunnel in a plutonium uranium extraction (PUREX) plant collapsed.

The agency says the rail tunnels are hundreds of feet long, with about eight feet (2.4 meters) of soil covering them. The U.S. Department of Energy says the incident caused the soil above the tunnel to sink between 2 and 4 feet (half to 1.2 meters).

"I would underscore this is confined to a small area of the Hanford site," Destry Henderson, deputy news manager for the Hanford Joint Information Center, told NBC News. "The facility does have radiological contamination right now but there is no indication of a radiological release," Henderson said.

A manager sent a message to all personnel telling them to "secure ventilation in your building" and "refrain from eating or drinking."

A source said "take cover" status was expanded to the entire site at 10:35 a.m. The source also said that crews doing road work nearby may have created enough vibration to cause the collapse, and that Vit Plant employees were in cover mode as well.

Robots were being used to determine possible air contamination.

Responding agencies include the U.S. Department of Energy; Richland, West Richland, and Kennewick city fire and police; Benton, Franklin, and Grant County fire and police officials; Washington state patrol; and Oregon and Washington state officials.

The Statesman Journal reports the Oregon Department of Energy has activated its emergency operation center in response to the Hanford emergency, which is 35 miles away from Oregon.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the Department of Energy and The White House reached out to his office after the incident.

This is a serious situation, and ensuring the safety of the workers and the community is the top priority. Our understanding is that the site went into immediate lockdown, in which workers were told to seek shelter, and all access to the area has been closed," Inslee said in a statement.

Hanford, which is roughly half the size of Rhode Island, spent decades making plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.

Photo from source: Here is another view of the PUREX tunnel at Hanford. Hole from collapse seen under orange flag.


Hanford Nuclear Storage Facilty tunnel collapses after earthquake swarm

Hanford infoan explanation of Hanford's threat to Portland with Mimi German from No Nukes Northwest#fightchurchmedia


Tunnel collapses at Hanford nuclear site; emergency declared

The U.S. Department of Energy in Richland declared an emergency at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington on Tuesday morning after a portion of a storage tunnel that contained rail cars used to store nuclear waste collapsed.
There apparently has been no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.

An emergency alert was declared at 8:26 a.m. after employees noticed a ground collapse in the 200 East Area, Hanford Emergency Center spokesman Destry Henderson said.

The ground collapse, about 400 square feet in size, occurred in an area where two underground tunnels join, according to an 11 a.m. online update by the Department of Energy. The tunnels, one 360 feet in length and the other 1,700 feet, were originally used in the 1950s to store contaminated equipment. The underground tunnels are have eight feet of soil covering them.

A 20-foot section of the tunnel’s roof caved in, Henderson said.

No workers were in the tunnel.

Six employees at the site of the tunnel collapse were evacuated, Henderson said. All employees in the Hanford site told to take cover after inspectors found the tunnel’s roof had collapsed.

Employees north of the site’s Wye Barricade and outside the 200 East Area were sent home from work at noon as a precaution, according to an update at 12:08 p.m. Employees in the 200 East Area remained sheltered at the site.

At noon, there were no indications of contamination, the update said.
It’s still unclear why the tunnel collapsed, Henderson said.

Responders are getting closer to the area where the soil has subsided for further visual inspection,” according to an online update. “The subsidence of soil was discovered during a routine surveillance of the area by workers.”

Officials are using a robot to get closer, up to a ½ mile, that monitors “radiological and industrial hygiene” from up to a half-mile way.

The Northwest News Network reported about 3,000 employees work in the 200 East Area.

At the moment we’re focusing on the safety of workers and making sure there’s no release beyond immediate site,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters at the scene.

Everyone is accounted for and there is no initial indiction of worker exposure or airborne radiation, the Department of Energy said in a statement on Twitter.

Officials have not evacuated any employees from nearby buildings, said Lori A., a spokeswoman who would give only her first name. She said she did not know how many employees were asked to stay put while crews investigate the damage.

Employees were asked to take cover in trailers and other designated areas, and they have not been evacuated from the property.

Nearby roads have not been affected, Lori A. said. She had no other information to share and said updates would be posted on the Hanford Emergency Information website.

Residents of Benton and Franklin counties are not required to take any action, the energy department said.

The Oregon Department of Energy activated its emergency operations center in response to the accident as a precaution, the department said in a tweet.

Nuclear experts at the department said the incident does not affect Oregon.

While there are special precautions being taken on-site at Hanford, Oregonians do not need to take any special precautions or protective actions,” said the department director Michael Kaplan said in a statement. “We want people to be aware that we’re closely monitoring the incident at Hanford and will continue to provide more information as soon as it becomes available.”

The sprawling Hanford site is near Richland and is half the size of Rhode Island.
The tunnel collapsed near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant, a facility built in the 1950s that is no longer used today, according to the Department of Energy

The plant processed plutonium from 1956 to 1972, and again from 1983 to 1988.
During those years, the plant processed more than 70,000 tons of uranium fuel rods, about 75 percent of the plutonium at Hanford.

Some scientists believe no other building on the planet processed more plutonium, according to the website. The building has been vacant for more than two decades but remains highly contaminated, according to the website.

Hanford is the largest depository of radioactive defense waste that must be cleaned.

It contains about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks.

Several rail cars used to transport the fuel rods are buried inside the tunnel near the plant.

Several rail cars used to transport the irradiated fuel rods from the Hanford nuclear reactors to the processing canyons are temporarily buried inside a tunnel near PUREX as a result of becoming contaminated,” according to the website.
Reporter Susannah Frame with KING 5 in Seattle is tweeting from the site.

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