Hanford radiation leak!!!

#1
I have not seen any of this on the t.v. news, not even a whisper - I heard about it yesterday on a progressive radio station but not the whole thing being that it was already going when I got into the car after wandering around the super-market. The radio said it was much worse than this link from the seattle PI says, but it is most serious regardless. The part that irritated me was that this happened of FRIDAY and yesterday was wednesday and they were still "working on a plan" to deal with the clean-up ... anyway here's the story from the PI

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/6420AP_WST_Hanford_Leak.html

Clogged pump led to Hanford leak
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Trying to remove radioactive sludge that is thick as peanut butter clogged a pump and led to a spill at the Hanford nuclear reservation, officials said Tuesday.

Now workers are trying to determine how to clean the worst spill that Hanford's tank farm area has had in years.

"The release to the environment of this waste material is not acceptable," Delmar Noyes, of the U.S. Department of Energy at Hanford, told reporters during a conference call.

No workers were contaminated by the radioactivity and the spill was contained within a tiny area near the waste tanks, so it posed no threat to the public, Noyes said.

But the spill, which Noyes said was the largest in the tank farm in years, illustrates the difficulties of trying to safely dispose of nuclear waste that dates back to World War II and the Manhattan Project to build nuclear weapons. Hanford covers about 560 square miles in southcentral Washington near the Tri-Cities, and contains the nation's largest collection of nuclear waste from the production of weapons.

The spill was believed to have occurred early Friday, but was not detected until about 10 a.m., some seven hours later, Hanford officials said.

A Hanford watchdog group criticized the Energy Department for what it called a slow response to the leak.

"This latest leak of deadly waste illustrates the risks we face for decades to come," said Gerald Pollet, executive director of Heart of America Northwest.

"The failure to detect the leak for hours overnight, while deadly high-level nuclear wastes apparently spilled onto the ground, raises serious questions requiring state and federal investigations," Pollet said.

The waste from the bottom of the tank is so lethal "that a cup full of waste would kill everyone in a room in a short period of time," Pollet added.

Hanford officials contend they notified regulators in an appropriate fashion after the release was discovered.

The spill occurred as an underground tank called S-102 was being slowly drained of its nuclear waste, which since 2004 has been pumped into newer, double-walled tanks that are less likely to leak.

The waste is thick, with the consistency of chunky peanut butter, and is injected with water and stirred to make it pumpable, Hanford officials said.

Early Friday, the pump became clogged. Workers reversed the pump in an effort to clear it. That reversal sent some waste from the bottom of the tank up into the hose that was feeding water into the tank, and that's the waste that leaked onto the ground, Noyes said.

The leak was estimated at between 50 and 100 gallons, although officials are not yet sure how big it was, he said.

The spill area has been capped with a material to prevent the waste from becoming airborne. A plan to safely dispose of the spill is being developed, he said.

There were no workers in the tank farm when the spill occurred, Hanford officials said.

After the spill was detected, workers in protective gear went into the tank farm to determine the extent of the radiation release, they said.

Meanwhile, workers in surrounding areas were evacuated and the pumping operation was shut down, Noyes said. Also shut down was the pumping of another nuclear waste storage tank.

Both will remain closed until it is determined that work can safely proceed, he said.

Two pumps have already been ruined on tank S-102 since the removal work started in 2004, and the clogged pump has only been operated since July 25, Hanford officials said.

The spill area has been fenced and is being monitored for radioactive release, Noyes said.

The waste removal is being conducted by private contractor CH2M Hill, which has emptied seven of the old tanks so far.

The waste in S-102 dates to the World War II effort to make plutonium, said Richard Raymond, of CH2M Hill.

"It's some of the most difficult we've had to deal with," he said.

The S-102 tank can hold 758,000 gallons, although only about 40,000 gallons remains in the tank, officials said.
 

mabar

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#2
https://www.rt.com/usa/387760-hanford-tunnel-collapse-nuclear/ said:
EMERGENCY DECLARED AT US HANFORD NUCLEAR WASTE SITE AFTER TUNNEL COLLAPSE

The US Department of Energy has declared an emergency at the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste storage site, after a tunnel used to store contaminated materials caved in.

A tunnel near the plutonium-uranium extraction plant (PUREX) collapsed early Tuesday morning local time, most likely from vibrations produced by nearby road work, KING-TV reported.

The tunnel was used to store highly radioactive materials and equipment, such as trains used to transport nuclear fuel rods.

...
Personnel at the nearby facility have been evacuated, and workers elsewhere in the complex have been ordered to stay indoors and refrain from eating and drinking, according to text alerts seen by local media.


Emergency measures were put in place due to “concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels,” says a statement posted on the Hanford facility website.

Residents of the nearby Benton and Franklin counties do not need to take any action, the facility said. why not??


Hanford is located on the Columbia River in eastern Washington, near the border with Oregon. Built during World War Two as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the nuclear bomb, it still contains roughly 53 million gallons – over 2,600 rail cars – worth of high-level nuclear waste, left from the production of plutonium for the US nuclear weapons program.

A number of current and former Hanford workers suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic waste leaks and “burps” of radiation at the complex, RT America reported in April 2016.
...it seems it is on going issue... https://www.sott.net/article/240764-US-Problems-Plague-Cleanup-at-Hanford-Nuclear-Waste-Site
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#3
mabar said:
https://www.rt.com/usa/387760-hanford-tunnel-collapse-nuclear/ said:
EMERGENCY DECLARED AT US HANFORD NUCLEAR WASTE SITE AFTER TUNNEL COLLAPSE

The US Department of Energy has declared an emergency at the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste storage site, after a tunnel used to store contaminated materials caved in.

A tunnel near the plutonium-uranium extraction plant (PUREX) collapsed early Tuesday morning local time, most likely from vibrations produced by nearby road work, KING-TV reported.

The tunnel was used to store highly radioactive materials and equipment, such as trains used to transport nuclear fuel rods.
The Hanford Nuclear plant and radioactive storage have been a major problem - going back years. Hanford Nuclear plant has been given $Millions$ for
Superfund clean up and they are still dealing with the same problems.

https://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,33685.15.html

Edit=Quote
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#4
A tunnel which contains some of the most radioactive material in the world has collapsed. The Hanford facility in Washington state, where 3,000 people work, was put into lockdown.

Workers in Danger as Tunnel Collapses at Top-Secret US Nuclear Waste Site (Video)
https://sputniknews.com/us/201705101053461695-us-nuclear-waste-site/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0rA8G4D3Rg (2:25 min.)

An emergency was declared Tuesday, May 9 after the tunnel collapsed, leaving a hole 20 feet square in the ground. Those working at the site were told to shelter and avoid eating or drinking anything.

The tunnel connects to a plutonium uranium extraction (PUREX) complex, where hundreds of tons of radioactive waste from atomic weapons were stored between 1956 and 1972.

The complex was brought back into use in 1983 and used for another five years to store more fuel rods from the US nuclear industry. The tunnel is understood to have enough storage space for 48 rail cars.

The Hanford site posted on Twitter a video showing workers "beginning prep work… to stabilize and fill a 20x20 ft opening."

Hanford was originally established in 1943 to process nuclear materials from the Manhattan Project.

The plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb tested in New Mexico and was also used in the atomic bomb that the US dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

Most employees were sent home last night but crews are monitoring the entire area for radioactive contamination.

Workers arriving for their night shift were told not to come into work.

"They are looking at options that would provide a barrier between the contaminated equipment in the tunnel and the outside air that would not cause the hole in the tunnel's roof to widen," said a message on Hanford's website said.

An updated message on the site today said: "Due to the recovery actions in the 200 East Area, Hanford site employees should adhere to the following dayshift work schedule for today: Non-essential employees north of the Wye Barricade are to report to work at 9:00 a.m. • All employees south of the Wye Barricade, including employees working in Richland — are on a regular work schedule; Essential employees needed north of the Wye Barricade to maintain minimum safe operations are to follow their normal work schedule."

Hanford Site Emergency Operations Center (EOC) spokesman Destry Henderson said the roof of the 100-foot tunnel had caved in, affecting a 20-foot stretch.

"At this time, we're monitoring the winds; the winds are blowing away from Yakima County at this time. Since there's no release confirmed at this time, we're just going to be monitoring it," said Yakima interim EOC director Tony Miller.

Susannah Frame, an investigative reporter at a nearby TV station, speculated that the incident may have been a result of construction work nearby.

Hanford has been referred to as "the most toxic place in America".

There have also been comparisons with Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Russian specialists recently announced technical proposals for the creation of a small-size nuclear facility that completely rules out the possibility of an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction like the one that led to the Chernobyl disaster.

Last year local media reported a "leak in a massive nuclear waste storage tank" had happened in 2012, which one worker described as "catastrophic."

The leak was discovered in 2011 by a worker but a contractor had ignored their warnings for nearly a year.

The US is not alone in having radioactive waste sites. Last week it was reported that the European Union plans to transfer control over the European Atomic Energy Community's radioactive materials stored on UK territory to London after Brexit.


Were you surprised when the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state suffered a tunnel collapse that nearly exposed hundreds of workers to radiation? Whistleblowers weren’t. Neither were government investigators or state officials, all of whom warned the facility operators in vain that the site was unsafe.
No Surprise: Washington Nuclear Tunnel Collapse Site Had History of Issues
https://sputniknews.com/environment/201705111053485479-hanford-nuclear-tunnel-collapse-unsurprising/

The 586-square mile site is currently in a state of emergency after the tunnel collapse on Tuesday. The 20-square feet tunnel was filled with contaminated materials, and it is possible that the collapse may have triggered an "airborne radiological release."

But terrible as the accident was, it was far from unexpected. In 2014, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz requested that the Department of Energy's Inspector General Gregory Friedman investigate the 2013 firing of a woman named Donna Busche, who had served as Hanford's manager of environmental and nuclear safety. Busche was fired by government contractor URS Corporation, which had been contracted to build a clean-up facility on the Hanford grounds.

But when Friedman began his investigation, he claimed that URS as well as construction company Bechtel "could not provide access to several thousand contractor-generated emails and other documents' that he needed for his investigation.

URS also fired Dr. Walt Tomasaitis in 2013, a whistleblower who claimed that he was demoted and then fired for raising safety concerns. He took URS' parent company AECOM to court and won a $4.1 million settlement for wrongful termination.

"We raised technical issues and have received harassment, retaliation," Busche told CBS News in October 2013. "The fact that [Tomasaitis] was terminated, it sent a resounding message to me, right? And heightened my sense of awareness that I was probably next."

In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Hanford, the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, had also become a black hole for federal money. The DoE had spent $19 billion over 25 years to clean up Hanford, primarily by vitrifying nuclear waste into glass logs. That project was originally slated to take eight years – instead, the DoE claimed it was going to take 42. The billions spent at Hanford seemed to have vanished with nothing to show for it.

In March 2017, Washington's two senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, petitioned the DoE to protect whistleblowers and ensure that safety recommendations were being followed.

"We have heard concerns from Hanford workers and labor unions about… inadequately addressing workers compensation claims following vapor exposures,: the two Democratic senators wrote. "Multiple accounts of workers compensation claims being dismissed on arbitrary grounds, tactics bordering on intimidation, and actions taken to discredit claims have been shared with us."

"These allegations are very troubling and we urge the [inspector general] to take immediate action."

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was most famously used during the Manhattan Project as the site where the Fat Man atomic bomb's plutonium core was produced. The vast majority of plutonium used in American weapons was produced at Hanford, as well. The site also hosted nuclear fission reactors that were shut down one by one during the move away from nuclear power in the 1960s and 70s.


US Radiation Map/BREACH AT HANFORD WA.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufCTrqZiWvc (6:40 min.)
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#5
Hanford’s owner, The U.S. Department of Energy, is scrambling to deal with the second emergency at the nuclear site in 10 days’ time.

Another Hanford emergency: Signs of another leaking tank
http://www.king5.com/news/local/hanford/radioactive-contamination-found-of-clothes-of-hanford-worker/441263419

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.

A seven-person crew was undertaking a routine job around 7 p.m. Thursday night. They had deployed a remote controlled devise into the safety space of what is known as a double shell tank. The device is used to evaluate structural integrity of the aging tanks. Normally, equipment lowered in this two-foot wide outer shell of the tank comes up clean. But not this time. A radiation specialist on the crew detected higher than expected readings.

“Radiological monitoring showed contamination on the unit that was three times the planned limit. Workers immediately stopped working and exited the area according to procedure,” said Rob Roxburgh, deputy manager of WRPS Communications & Public Relations, the government contractor in charge of all 177 underground storage tanks at the nuclear site.

Detection equipment was then used to check for contamination that might have become airborne and adhered to the workers. They found radioactive material on one worker in three spots: on one shoe, on his shirt, and on his pants in the knee area. According to workers in the field, the contaminated items were removed, bagged and appropriately disposed of.

“Everybody was freaked, shocked, surprised,” said a veteran worker, who is in direct contact with crew members. “(The contamination) was not expected. They’re not supposed to find contamination in the annulus (safety perimeter) of the double shell tanks.”

Of Hanford’s 177 underground tanks, 28 of them are double-shells. They were built to withstand the test of time – a more robust model that was supposed to hold the worst nuclear waste on the reservation until a permanent solution for disposal is developed. But Thursday night’s incident means this could be the second double shell tank to fail.

Here is photo of ultrasonic testing crawler used to check safety space of Hanford double shell tanks. Crawler like this came up contaminated.

“We are of course concerned it might be a leak,” a Washington state Department of Ecology spokesperson said.

In 2013 the KING 5 Investigators exposed how the federal government and its contractor misled the public and lawmakers about the first double shell tank to leak – AY 102. The series, “Hanford’s Dirty Secrets,” showed how Hanford managers ignored major red flags that AY 102 was leaking, and instead insisted “rainwater” had seeped into the safety space. AY 102 is located about 100 feet from AZ 101.

The AZ 101 contamination event comes just 10 days after a tunnel collapse at Hanford that caused a site wide emergency. On May 9, workers found a 20 by 20 foot cave in of a tunnel used to store highly radioactive and chemically contaminated equipment from the Cold War-era. That event could have spewed radioactive particles across the site and beyond, but due to stagnant air at the time, monitoring has shown no contamination blew out of the huge hole, according to Hanford officials.

Governor Jay Inslee called on the federal government to investigate after the contamination was discovered.

“Today’s alarming incident at Hanford elevates the urgency of the federal government to prioritize and fund all critical cleanup at this aging nuclear reservation,” Inslee said in a statement. “We are not aware of any nuclear waste leaking outside the AZ-101 double-shelled tank, but we expect the U.S. Department of Energy to immediately investigate and report on the source of contamination.

“This comes on the heels of last week’s tunnel collapse. It is another urgent reminder that Congress needs to act, and they need to act quickly.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent out a statement on the potential leak as well.

“Today’s news of another potential leak in a tank at Hanford only strengthens my resolve to hold the Department of Energy accountable for its responsibility to clean up this contaminated site,” Ferguson said. “This isn’t the first potential leak, and it won’t be the last. 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.”
 
#6
good book on the subject:
Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters by Kate Brown
_http://plutopia.net/

In four decades, the Hanford plant near Richland and the Maiak plant near Ozersk each issued at least 200 million curies of radioactive isotopes into the surrounding environment--equaling four Chernobyls
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#8
Possibility of Being said:
b made a good post on this topic (followed by some informative comments) on Moon of Alabama two weeks ago:
Tunnel With Radioactive Waste Collapses - No Real Solution In Sight
Thanks for Posting that article, POB. The comment section is a treasure trove of information.

"Yes, nuclear power was designed to make plutonium for weapons, not electricity, which has made the two processes inseparable and has led to the creation of thousands of tons of plutonium, a substance which previously only existed in nature infinitesimal quantities."

..... "the Earth will become an uninhabitable radioactive wastelands .... a massive dead zone."
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#9
Speaking of radioactive leaks, A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WARNING was just issued to New Jersey residents but the authorities are insisting " the warning was sent out by mistake?"

Tens of thousands of New Jersey residents received a nuclear power plant emergency warning on Tuesday night. There was just one problem: there was no emergency, and the warning was sent out by mistake.

Meltdown or Mishap? New Jersey Residents Get False Emergency Nuclear Alert
https://sputniknews.com/society/201705251053956935-nuclear-plant-false-alert-message/

The warning was issued to television sets in Salem and Cumberland Counties. "A civil authority has issued A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WARNING for the following counties/areas: Cumberland; Salem, NJ; at 8:54 PM on MAY 23, 2017. Effective until 9:54 PM," it read.

Half an hour later, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management tweeted a correction. "There is NO emergency," they stressed. "This message went out in error."

The operator of the plant in question, PES&G, reiterated the state government's assurances in an email. "There is NO emergency at our Hope Creek nuclear plant," said PSEG spokesman Joe Delmar in an email. "We are conducting an emergency drill. Some of the drill scenario was mistaken for an actual emergency. We are working with the NJ Office of Emergency Management to correct this information. Again, there is NO emergency."

"It seems one of the drill messages was put out there across the emergency broadcast system as a real event," said Delmar in a phone interview with USA Today. The plant was conducting an exercise for a potential nuclear disaster, which the OEM mistook as an actual nuclear meltdown.

The OEM claims that it was flooded by calls after the mishap. They say they will take pains to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Salem/Hope Creek, the reactor in question, generates enough power for 3 million homes. This makes it America's second-largest nuclear power facility.


I also find it interesting - that Switzerland has opted out and intends to phase out nuclear power. Home quarters to most of the elite families.

Switzerland will phase out nuclear power from 2019, after 58 percent of voters in a referendum supported a switch to renewables. The vote comes only months after Britain opted to build a new nuclear power station.
Voters in Switzerland Opt to Phase Out Nuclear Power From 2019
https://sputniknews.com/europe/201705221053859770-switzerland-nuclear-power-2019/

A map of voting in the Swiss cantons showed wide discrepancies in opinions in different parts of the country.

In French-speaking Vaud, in the west of Switzerland, 73 percent of voters supported dumping nuclear power, but in German-speaking Glarus and Schwyz around 56 percent of the electorate wanted to keep it.

Switzerland has five ageing nuclear power stations, which provide 38 percent of the country's energy needs.

Two are at Beznau and the others are at Muhleberg, Gosgen and Leibstadt, all in the north of the country.

[...] As a result of the May 21 referendum, Switzerland will begin phasing out nuclear power in 2019.

With more than a third of the country's power currently coming from nuclear, it will represent a major challenge for the electricity companies to find new sources in such a short time frame.

But the president of Switzerland's Green Party, Regula Rytz, said the vote was a "moment of historic change."

"The Swiss population has said no to the construction of new nuclear power plants and yes to the development of renewable energy. The conditions have also been set whereby the economy and households will need to take responsibility for the future. It's absolutely magnificent," said Rytz.

Energy Minister Doris Leuthard had been urging voters to back the switch to renewables despite the huge cost, which opponents had been highlighting.

"After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland's energy policy can begin," said Leuthard at a news conference. "But there is still a lot of work to do."

The World Nuclear Association says radioactive waste is mostly handled by Zwilag, a company owned by the four Swiss nuclear companies.

Zwilag began using a central interim dry cask storage facility for high-level wastes at Wurenlingen in 2001.


The Swiss government said the referendum result will focus the minds of everyone as they seek to reduce electricity consumption and increase generation by renewables.

Its Alpine topography and high levels of rainfall makes Switzerland ideal for hydroelectric power generation and it saw a boom between 1945 and 1970, but they remain loss-making enterprises.

Dr. Michael Bluck, director of the Center for Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College in London, said there was a degree of "horses for courses" when it came to individual countries' decisions whether to carry on with a nuclear industry.

"In Switzerland's case 60 percent of its energy comes from hydroelectric power, which is a great thing to have. Their geography already lends itself to that," Dr. Bluck told Sputnik.

Dr. Bluck said Switzerland's decision "did not help the narrative" of the nuclear industry but it would be wrong to start writing its obituary.

"Nuclear is expensive and when governments make a decision it is often on the basis of cost. If nuclear came down in price — for example with the construction of small modular reactors — that would make a difference," he told Sputnik.

Dr. Bluck said it was ironic that Switzerland and neighboring Germany, which has also decided to phase out nuclear, would probably end up importing electricity from France, which has the largest nuclear power industry in Europe.

Switzerland will join Austria, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Poland and Greece, none of whom produce nuclear power.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#10
Engineering studies made public Friday reveal serious structural problems with two tunnels at the Hanford Site where highly radioactive materials are stored.

High Potential for Collapse: New Study Shows Two Radioactive Hanford Tunnels Are Not Stable
http://www.king5.com/mb/news/local/hanford/studies-hanford-tunnels-holding-radioactive-materials-at-risk-of-collapse/453356462

The reports were prepared following the May 9 discovery of a collapsed section of the roof of one of the tunnels. The U.S. Department of Energy, the owner and operator at Hanford, said no workers were exposed to radiation in that incident, which prompted evacuations and lock-downs across the site.

The two studies released Friday evaluated the structural integrity of two tunnels located near the Hanford PUREX plant — a decommissioned facility where plutonium was processed when Hanford was an active part of the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Both tunnels were built more than 50 years ago and currently hold abandoned railroad cars and equipment that is heavily radioactive.

KING 5 reported in May that concerns about the tunnels’ condition had been voiced for decades by scientists and engineers working at Hanford. The two new reports declare that both tunnels are at risk of collapse and “do not meet current structural codes and standards.”
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#11
Radioactive microparticles were detected in the homes of six workers in central Washington state’s Tri-City area who are associated with the Hanford nuclear site, a major Cold War-era plutonium manufacturing facility, scientists have reported.

14.06.2018 - Radioactive Dust Found in Homes of Workers at Major US Nuclear Weapons Facility
Radioactive Dust Found in Homes of Workers at Major US Nuclear Weapons Facility

A study published this month in the Journal of Environmental Engineering Science reported that small but still dangerous amounts of radioactive elements were found in dust collected by cloth wipes and vacuum cleaners in order to track the potential spread of radiation from one of the United States' most notorious nuclear cleanup sites.

The same study also found radioactive particles in the homes of nuclear workers associated with the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. All three sites are heavily associated with nuclear weapons production.

It's believed the particles could have found their way into the homes in a variety of ways, including being attached to workers' clothing and being stirred up by wind storms and wildfires, which are common in the region, and blown inside.

The tests found radioactive uranium, thorium, plutonium and americium particles that, while innocuous in the external environment, represent a "potential source of internal radiation exposure" if ingested, warns Marco Kaltofen, a civil engineer affiliated with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and author of the study, the Seattle Times reported.

Exposure to these materials increases the risk of cancer, the study noted. Plutonium is "fiendishly toxic, even in small amounts," said Glenn Seaborg, the physicist who discovered the element in 1941, as quoted in a 2011 fact sheet on the Rocky Flats site. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry notes in its public health statement on thorium exposure that the radioactive isotopes can sit in the soil for decades and cause lung cancer if inhaled. Uranium ingestion mainly targets the kidneys, the ATSDR notes, while americium destroys and irradiates bone tissue and can cause bone cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma and damage the thyroid.

"These radioactive particles are tiny and difficult to detect once you get a few inches away, but once inside the body, the distance from our tissue is essentially zero," Kaltofen explained. While the skin can handle certain amounts of radiation safely, the body's internal organs have no protection and a tiny amount can prove fatally toxic. Polonium-210, for example, is 250 million times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide, the New York Times reported.

The report's conclusions come from years of testing coordinated with Hanford Challenge, a Seattle-based organization that has fought for decades for accountability in the federal cleanup of the Hanford site. Kaltofen used an unusual technique that involves both electron microscopy and a specialized X-ray analysis that can detect extremely low levels of radioactive particles. The samples were compared to those taken from the Hanford site, which served as a kind of fingerprint for identifying the particles.

The levels found in the Hanford workers' homes represented a health risk exceeding that considered acceptable by the International Commission on Radiological Protection's safety standards. However, the manager of the Radioactive Air Emissions Section of the Washington Department of Health John Martell told the Seattle Times that the level found in the study "is not jumping out to us as a public health risk."

The US Department of Energy (DoE) performs regular environmental monitoring to measure radionuclide concentrations in the air, water and soil, as well as in fish and wildlife "to assure the public that the dose and risk from Hanford contaminants are well understood," the department says.

Hanford Site, or Hanford Nuclear Reservation, is a 586 square-mile site between the Columbia and Yakima Rivers, just upstream from the Tri-Cities and adjacent to Richland. It is roughly half the size of Rhode Island. The site was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the United States' top secret program to develop an atomic bomb.

Hanford housed the world's first full-scale plutonium reactor in the world, B Reactor, and was expanded to nine nuclear reactors and five plutonium processing plants. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the Trinity blast, the world's first nuclear explosion, as was the fuel for the two atom bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in August 1945, that killed more than 200,000 people. Most of the nuclear fuel for the 60,000 nuclear weapons the United States produced through the 1980s came from the Hanford site, according to the US Department of Energy.

Hanford was decommissioned after the Cold War but remains the storage site for 53 million gallons of liquid nuclear waste and 25 million cubic feet of solid nuclear waste, the DoE website notes. Neither the stored waste nor the waste from production has been properly stored, and large radiation leaks have contaminated much of the area, which remains the nation's largest environmental cleanup site. According to Earth Island Journal, between 1944 and 1972, "as much as 1.7 trillion gallons of liquid waste, radionuclides and hazardous chemicals" were dumped into the Columbia River or into the ground.

The site regularly leaks nuclear contaminants, notably in February 2016 and May 2017, with the planned December 2017 demolition of a Hanford plutonium finishing plant being halted after several workers inhaled contaminated particles, arousing fears of a larger contamination if demolition continued, the Seattle Times reported at the time. Plutonium and americium traces were found up to 10 miles away from the condemned plant in subsequent tests. However, all of Kaltofen's samples came from before the demolition began.

The Yakama Nation, whose reservation sits only 20 miles from the site, for decades fought turning Hanford into a nuclear waste site, as did other affected tribes such as the Nez Perce and Umatilla nations. Three counties around the Yakama reservation have seen high rates of a rare and fatal birth defect called anencephaly, in which a fetus' brain and skull fail to fully form, which is believed to be caused by irradiation, Earth Island reported. Higher rates of anencephaly are also associated with sites in Iraq where the US military used depleted uranium rounds during the Iraq War, Iraqi doctors in Basra and Baghdad have noted.

Indigenous nations in Washington aren't the only ones negatively affected by the US nuclear weapons program: decades of uranium mining in the Navajo Nation have caused extensive irradiation of the countryside, creating a disease known as Navajo Neuropathy, NPR reported. One spring in northeastern Arizona was reported in 2015 to have uranium levels "at least five times greater than safe drinking water standards" by a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The contamination caused the early deaths of many children who drank from the spring or whose mothers drank the water while pregnant.
 
Top Bottom