Devastating Radioactive Leak In Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Facility Sparks Outrage

hanford_nuclearBy Brianna Blaschke

A nuclear leak in Washington has allowed for 3,500 gallons of radioactive waste to be released – and the federal government is trying to claim no harm will come.

A massive radioactive leak was discovered this past Sunday at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. Officials have stated that the original container holding the radioactive material has slowly been trickling out roughly 70 gallons since 2011, though they have not determined what accelerated the problem. They are set to begin pumping an estimated 3,000-3,500 gallons of waste back into storage containers.

It comes as no surprise that the federal government was well aware of the waste issue at this site, even approving a $2 billion initiative years ago to fund the contamination clean-up over the course of the next several decades. However, they have only recently begun to make moves on this plan. The program launched this March, with the first major step to remove about 800,000 gallons from the compromised tank to a stable one. Prior to the leak found on Sunday, officials estimated the tank was almost completely empty, with only about 45,000 gallons remaining. Their estimates were clearly proven wrong and have caused a chain reaction in which all other efforts at the site have been postponed until the spill is controlled.

While federal officials are attempting to trivialize the seriousness of the issue, Hanford Reservation manager, Mike Geffre, who discovered the leak back in 2011, stated:

This is catastrophic. This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors, to hold waste safely from people and the environment.

Geffre is referencing the facility’s initial purpose, dating back to the Manhattan Project in 1944. The site was used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons for years, and currently is used as a storage space for all the waste remains created from plutonium production. A total of 177 containers holding radioactive waste occupy the site, and have been since that era in history. Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper Brett VandenHeuvel, “these tanks were not designed to hold waste for decades. It’s past time to get the waste out of the unsafe tanks.”

In a statement released on Monday, the US Department of Energy announced that there are “no indications that waste has reached the environment and there appears to be no threat to the public at this time. We continue to monitor it and have leak detectors in the area.” This assurance is shortchanged, however, by their admission that the tank is “too dangerous” to send workers to inspect the full scope of the damage. Doubt for the federal government’s legitimacy is compounded by the preexisting lawsuit workers at the Hanford site have filed against the United States government, to “ensure that their members and all workers at the Hanford nuclear site are protected from exposure to toxic vapors released from Hanford’s high-level nuclear waste tanks.”

In what has become somewhat of a trend, facility workers in countless nuclear waste sites have demanded that the harm they are exposed to on a daily basis be eradicated. According to Hanford’s lawsuit, some employees have suffered brain damage, nervous system disorders, and lung diseases resulting from the poor management of the facility. It continues to explain that “[officials] don’t have the monitoring equipment in place, they don’t have enough people to do the monitoring, and worst of all, Hanford officials have made it repeatedly clear that they don’t think there is a problem.”

The extraneous circumstances – and common sense – make it difficult to swallow the Department of Energy’s insistence that the spill poses no threat to humans or the environment. One can only hope the situation will be contained before it destroys more lives.

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12 Comments on "Devastating Radioactive Leak In Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Facility Sparks Outrage"

  1. berrybestfarm | April 21, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Reply

    Thank God I am upriver from Hanford. The clean up project has been in place for years and of course fraught with repeatedly catching the contractors hired lying and skimping–to the tune of billions and yet they keep on “working” with barely a slap on the wrist and then we give them more money for their cost over runs.

    • “Thank God I am upriver from Hanford”
      Who do the people downriver thank … for their contamination? Do they “thank God” too (as they’re cursing upon finding out)? Blame the devil? Oh well–bad luck? Does God only care about those upriver?

      • berrybestfarm | April 22, 2016 at 10:46 am | Reply

        No of course not. We upriver folks have our own set of challenges and threats to deal with

        • I am questioning the phrase “Thank God”. Do you also thank God for your “own set of challenges and threats”? Or only for things and events that are beneficial to you? Of course you do not “thank God” for adverse things and events. But then what or who is responsible for those? My intuitive logic says that if God is responsible for you being in the right place at the right time, he is also responsible for those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

          • berrybestfarm | April 23, 2016 at 9:11 am |

            Sigh…It’s just a convention of English language, nothing religious intended.

      • GoBacktoSleep | April 22, 2016 at 11:13 am | Reply


  2. yEshUA ImmAnUEl | April 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Reply

    “All the failures and troubles of life come from ignorance; teach man to know, to understand the world in which he lives, and its laws and life will be easy and simple for him.”

  3. yEshUA ImmAnUEl | April 21, 2016 at 6:27 pm | Reply

    “Co-operation should somehow be substituted for competition, and in many ways everything would be much better if that could be done. Also, the selfishness which rules in so many directions in the world is all wrong; we ought to be able to substitute altruism for it.”

  4. yEshUA ImmAnUEl | April 21, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Reply

    “There ought to be a minimum of comfort, at any rate, for every human being, and that any social system which fails to provide that is failing as a civilisation.”

  5. Ionias Georgi | April 22, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Reply

    Don’t worry, the government will take necessary action to solve this issue. It’s time to fight terrorism.

  6. And Obama is lauding his nuclear record ….what a bunch of liars.

  7. Peter Cunningham | April 23, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Reply

    Right or wrong, it is very fashionable these days to criticise and demand unconditional recognition of the criticism.

    “Devastation” is not appropriate. So much breath is wasted with generalised emotive expressions such as ” appears to be no threat”, “difficult to swallow”… “destroys more lives”

    Needed are proper facts about quantities and real threats from both sides. For example in that report, not one measureable radiation parameter o no Bequerels, millisieverts or anything.

    Fear of real legal accountability for what people say means they say nothing substantial about anything. Just unedifying waffle meant to confuse reality.

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