Hanford:a site crucial to the secret Manhattan Project. Plutonium for weapons produced there for 4 decades. NOT nuclear power plant. pic.twitter.com/Uq2Pce0QX4— Susannah Frame (@SFrameK5) May 11, 2017
On 9 May 2017, a 20-foot-long section of a nuclear waste storage tunnel collapsed at the Hanford Site in Washington State, USA. The collapse occurred at the 20-foot-wide join of two tunnels, possibly exposing the contents to the open air, although Hanford denied this. Hanford is famous for producing plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. It is also famous for its contamination and leaking tanks of waste, making it one of the most toxic sites in the United States.
Underground rail cars once remotely shuttled spent fuel from plutonium refineries: Hanford had nine reactors and four reprocessing plants which made plutonium out of uranium. Over forty years of production, "hundreds of billions of gallons of liquid waste w[ere] ... generated," along with millions of tonnes of solid waste.
Once production stopped in the late 1980s, the rail cars, filled with solid waste, were left in place in the tunnels. There are also underground waste storage tanks, which hold some 200 million litres of nuclear waste. Nearly 4 million litres are estimated to have already leaked over the past decades into the water table.
In 1975, consumer advocate Ralph Nader famously stated that one pound of plutonium, if equally dispersed in earth's atmosphere, would kill everyone on the planet. This claim was disputed, but even Nader's harshest critic agreed that one pound of plutonium could kill two million people. Plutonium mimics iron in the human system, so it affects the liver and blood cells.
Image Source: Washington Post.
Great! that @washingtonpost reports on Hanford. But for the love of God-it is NOT a nuclear power plant. https://t.co/ESRgKnhfjD— Susannah Frame (@SFrameK5) May 11, 2017
The collapse of the tunnel on 9 May means that there is a danger of airborne contamination from the hole; and there is a risk of compromised tanks leaking into the Columbia River and the Pacific. After an initial state of emergency, the situation seems to have calmed down.
Nuclear leaks are interesting news items to test fake news, disinformation, and citizen journalism, because the public generally does not trust what the government or established media says about a leak. The public almost always assumes that there is a cover-up.
The scoop on Hanford came from a citizen journalist whose Youtube channel constantly tracks earthquakes: Hanford Nuclear Storage Facilty tunnel collapses after earthquake swarm (9 May 2017). Dutchsinse warned about an impending problem at Hanford on Youtube, four days before the tunnel collapse happened, on 5 May 2017. Video Source: Youtube.
Although the officially-reported cause of the tunnel collapse was a "subsidence of soil," one citizen journalist (above) believes the accident was caused by a cluster of small earthquakes close to Mount St. Helens. He identified the quakes and predicted a problem at Hanford on 5 May 2017. Another citizen journalist (below), who tracks airplane flights, decided that the government and mainstream media were not revealing the full scale of concern, based on the presence of radioactive 'sniffer' airplane traffic.
HANFORD: Current Wind Patterns, Recon Flights, Nuke Sniffer Airborne (10 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.
Another Youtube channel covered the Hanford tunnel collapse on 10 May (here), and went so far as to call the Hanford site press office to ask for more information. "Are you a member of the media?" Hanford Site staff member asked. "Yes," said the Youtuber, "I'm from 'WGON' News out of Tennessee." 'WGON' News stands for 'What's Goin' On' News, and it comprises a woman named Linda, sitting in her kitchen with her telephone.
Concerns Strong Winds Could Spread Radioactive Particles From Nuclear Accident In Hanford WA (10 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.
Westerly winds (blowing eastwards) are predicted to pick up on 11 May 2017. The closest large city east of Hanford is Spokane. The US government's air radiation monitoring runs a couple of days behind, but the page for gamma radiation in Spokane's air is here; all other states, including Washington State, are here. For those in British Columbia, the Canadian counterpart is unfortunately updated on a quarterly basis, although you may get an idea from American border city measurements. The other Canadian government site on airborne radioactive particles contains scant information, but you can at least see (here) that Fukushima caused a spike in radioactive fallout across the entire country, all the way to the Maritimes. At the time, in 2011, the Canadian government denied or played down that fact.
See all my posts on Nuclear topics.
Addendum (13 May 2017): NBC reported on 11 May 2017 that the tunnel hole may have gone unnoticed for up to four days before it was discovered. Dutchsinse, who broke the story of earthquakes near Hanford and speculated on possible damage there four days before the tunnel hole discovery, has since taken down both videos relating to Hanford. I am leaving up the blank video embed and links to confirm his original reporting on this matter, four days before anyone else discussed the problem.
Dutchsinse has a devoted Youtube following because of his constant review of earthquake data. His viewers send him rock samples, earthquake information, donations, and care packages. On 13 May 2017, this was his last video, published 11 May 2017 (the title states 9 May), remaining in his feed after the removal of the Hanford videos. This may mean that he removed his Hanford videos on 11 May 2017. Video Source: Youtube.