Hot Time In Hanford – Again…

May 21, 2017

Enjoy the water!

Back in 2013 I first wrote about concerns of significant leaks of radioactive material at the Hanford nuclear bomb-making plant, located on the Columbia river in Washington State. Now, within the last two weeks two more serious radiation exposures have occurred. We’re going to look at some very serious assertions about Hanford, but first some background from 2013 – The Seattle PI, a newspaper that is now out of business:

“A World War II-vintage, single-shell waste tank at Hanford, storing high-level radioactive waste from nuclear weapons manufacturing, has been leaking 150 to 300 gallons each year into the soil at the Eastern Washington reservation, the U.S. Department of Energy told the governor’s office early Friday.
“This is very disturbing news. I am alarmed about this on many levels . . . Washington state has a zero tolerance policy on radioactive leaks,” Gov. Jay Inslee told a news conference in Olympia.
While stressing that there is “no immediate public health risk,” Inslee voiced impatience that federal managers have yet to clean remaining sludge — a mixture of solids and liquids with a mud-like consistency — out of 149 single-shell tanks built as long as 70 years ago to contain wastes from the manufacture of plutonium.
Hanford began bomb-building as part of the World War II Manhattan Project. It manufactured the plutonium used in the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan on Aug. 9, 1945. The 560-square-mile reservation continued making plutonium for 45 years after the end of World War II.”


Now, I’ve heard people say there is no way that the radioactive waste could migrate through the rock and soil to reach the river, but that might not even be the correct way to look at this contamination.
Jeffrey St. Clair writes in Counterpunch:

“The core craves water to keep it cooled down. Lots of water. That’s the prime reason the nuclear engineers picked Hanford. It was a remote site with easy access to an almost limitless supply of water. So pumphouses were built to suck up 75,000 gallons of Columbia River water every minute and shoot it through aluminum tubes and around the uranium slugs. The highly contaminated water was then discharged into settling ponds and then flushed back into the river down large sluices. And that’s where the trouble started for the river and the fish and the people who ate them.”

Therefore we see that the damage began decades ago, when this huge volume of toxic water was simply dumped in the Columbia river. Consider this when I relate the story I was told about the Columbia’s radioactivity at the end of this article.

In the last two weeks two serious events have occurred. Here is reporting from the AP:

“RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — A worker at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state 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, Washington, 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.”

Both incidents are being downplayed quite a bit. When the tunnel collapsed on May 9th, it exposed train cars filled with some of the most dangerous radioactive waste on the planet. Experts say because there was no wind, it is likely that radioactive particles did not travel far. That is contradicted by radiation monitoring stations run by public activists. Additionally, some 3,000 workers were ordered to “shelter in place”, turn off outside ventilation, and to not eat or drink anything. A large number were sent home for several days.
In the case of the tank leak that followed, King 5 News described that the workers were “freaking out”. They sent a robotic tool in to search for damage and exposure levels.

The Columbia river has been called the most radioactive river in the world. But that’s not Hanford’s only dark legacy. “The New Scientist” has a review and excerpts of Kate Brown’s book on the subject called “Plutopia”, and here are a few notable quotes:

“MAKING plutonium for nuclear bombs takes balls, but not in the way you might think. In 1965, scientists at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex in Washington state wanted to investigate the impact of radiation on fertility – and they weren’t hidebound by ethics.
In a specially fortified room in the basement of Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, volunteer prisoners were asked to lie face down on a trapezoid-shaped bed. They put their legs into stirrups, and let their testicles drop into a plastic box of water where they were zapped by X-rays.”
“The testicle tests are just one of many disturbing details Kate Brown has unearthed from the official archives in her fascinating nuclear history. She also tells how tunnels created by muskrats undermined one of Hanford’s storage ponds, causing 60 million litres of radioactive effluent to pour into the Columbia river.

And there is the scary tale of how Hanford scientists conducted one of their riskiest experiments, later dubbed the “green run”. For 7 hours, they processed highly radioactive “green” fuel that had not been allowed to decay for as long as usual – and showered 407,000 gigabecquerels of radioactive iodine over nearby cities. The green run is said to have been an attempt to mimic what the US thought the Soviet Union was doing to boost plutonium production at its Mayak nuclear weapons plant at Ozersk, in the Urals.”
“But the two vast, creaking, nuclear complexes also deliberately discharged huge amounts of radioactivity into the environment, cut corners and caused countless accidents and leaks. Brown estimates that during their existence they each released at least 7.4 billion gigabecquerels, four times the amount released by the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in 1986.”

And now for some more scary stuff. These stories were told to me by people I know and trust, one being an attorney for the city of Portland. I have no way to confirm their validity.

When I was care-taking a farm on the Columbia River outside Portland Oregon, water quality was a constant issue. One of my best friends had just done a cabinet job for a pub up in Hood River, miles upstream on the Columbia, near Hanford. While talking with the owner, it was related that the town had a dirty little secret. It seems that thousands of people travel to Hood River to windsurf, some renting condos and cabins for the entire summer of steady winds and blue water.

However, there seemed to be a problem; lots of the windsurfers ended up suffering from illness such as hair loss, skin rash and bleeding gums, the most obvious to appear and be visible. Nobody could explain this, but fingers were pointed at the leaky Hanford plant upstream.

When I told that story to my neighbor, an attorney for the city of Portland and very reliable, he added more to the story:
He knew a person that was stationed on a barge at the mouth of the Columbia. Their job was to dredge up muck from the bottom of the river and inspect it for environmental toxins.
As he described; the sediment was so radioactive, they sunk the barge right there.
I don’t know what to make of that, but I’ve thought about it for years.

In a separate horror story about Hanford, I had a source for an article who was a contract pilot for the CIA. He was personally told that at Hanford there are places so radioactive that nobody is supposed to go there for thousands of years.
And that is where bodies that are never to be found are hidden.
Bodies of whom? Dumped by Who?
I don’t know, but I can guess. No way to check on this one, but food for thought.

Things could indeed get much worse. This appears to be an indication of a complete systems failure. If there were an earthquake or fire at the site, radioactive material would cover an estimated 3-state area.

On the plants Twitter feed (@HanfordSite) all is quiet. Their last post on May 17 shows a lovely photo of a small Elk herd roaming the grasslands. Bechtel and CH2M Hill, Hanford clean-up contractors are in PR mode, and have been accused by activists of corrupt practices at the site.

Perhaps we should send recently appointed Energy Secretary Rick Perry there to investigate the situation. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he can read the warning signs or pronounce “Plutonium”.

Please listen to this excellent podcast about the danger posed by the tunnel collapse and leaks, by “Global Research News hour”


UPDATE: EPA has more bad news

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