Hanford Nuclear Reservation | KUOW News and Information

Hanford Nuclear Reservation

One week ago workers found a tunnel filled with radioactive waste caved in at the Hanford nuclear site in southeast Washington. State officials and tribes are calling for quick cleanup action.

But how did we get here?

Washington state is taking legal action against the U.S. government after a tunnel full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday at the Hanford nuclear site.

Bill Radke talks with Anna King about the collapse of a train tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear reservation. King is a reporter for the Northwest News Network.

Tuesday morning an emergency response was triggered at the Hanford nuclear site when a hole was found in the roof of a buried tunnel nearby a mothballed plutonium processing plant. The tunnel, constructed in the haste of the Cold War, was about 360-feet-long and built out of timbers and concrete.

So what exactly is in that tunnel? 

Contractors are building a road to a collapsed train tunnel site at the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeast Washington state. Their goal is to keep any radioactive contamination from escaping the hole that was found Tuesday.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

The Department of Energy has declared an emergency at a nuclear-contaminated site in Washington state, after soil caved in over a portion of a tunnel containing rail cars contaminated with nuclear waste.

"All personnel in the immediate area have been accounted for — they are safe — and there is no evidence of a radiological release," Destry Henderson, spokesperson for the Hanford site's emergency operations center, said in a brief statement on Facebook.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued an emergency alert Tuesday morning at the Hanford site north of Richland, Washington, after a tunnel at a radioactive cleanup site caved in. Workers at a former chemical processing plant were evacuated and thousands more across Hanford were directed to take shelter indoors.

State and federal officials said all workers were accounted for, there were no injuries and no indication of “release” of radioactivity into the environment. By early afternoon, the employees taking shelter were given permission to go home except those needed for emergency response.

There’s a huge building with a massive pool of water at the Hanford nuclear site in southeast Washington state. The water glows an eerie neon blue from an effect known as the Cherenkov Glow. The light comes from the decay of the nearly 2,000 highly-radioactive cesium and strontium capsules held in the pool.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger Bill Bryant sparred in their last scheduled debate in Pasco Wednesday night over Inslee's record at Hanford and their stances on environmental regulations.

Hanford Workers' Skin Exposed To Radioactive Waste

Oct 19, 2016

At least 10 Hanford workers were exposed to radioactive waste Tuesday at the nuclear cleanup site’s tank farm in southeast Washington.

Workers were removing a connection line that’s used to transfer radioactive waste between tanks when the contamination was detected. A test found radioactive waste on the workers’ skin and clothing. The contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, says the contamination was low.

Tom Carpenter, who heads the worker advocacy group, Hanford Challenge, disputed that characterization.

For decades, artifacts of life and work from the Manhattan Project and Cold War era at Hanford have been locked away. Now, these historical items are being trucked off the southeast Washington nuclear site and curated at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

A new federal bill was introduced Monday that would further protect whistleblowers at Hanford and other nuclear sites. The legislation was penned by thee Democratic senators: Oregon’s Ron Wyden, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said workers at Hanford tank farms who say radioactive waste is making them sick need to be heard.

Officials from the Hanford nuclear reservation and Energy Northwest have been meeting with fire managers in southeast Washington state Tuesday. The nearby Range 12 Fire has grown to more than 177,000 acres and high winds are predicted this evening.

Daughters Of Hanford Wins History Award

Aug 1, 2016

A woman meets a mysterious stranger as she studies declassified documents about one the most polluted sites on earth.

Three generations of women are part of a family whose lives, health and even high school mascot bear markers of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington state.

The Washington State Historical Society recognizes these stories, and the entire project Daughters of Hanford, with the 2016 David Douglas Award.

Workers at the Hanford tank farms in southeast Washington state stopped work Monday after a group of unions in Richland called for a halt in the early morning. A union leader said that could mess with about 2,000 people’s schedules at the site.

An apparent surge in leakage from a huge tank of radioactive waste set off alarms at the Hanford nuclear site in south-central Washington. This involves an aging, double-shelled tank that contractors were slowly pumping out.

Higher-level managers for major Hanford contractors testified in a three-day U.S. Department of Labor hearing this week. The case is over the layoff of a whistleblower at the southwest Washington nuclear site’s under-construction waste treatment plan.

Hanford construction workers and managers testified in day two of a U.S. Department of Labor hearing Wednesday in Kennewick, where a different image emerged of  the site's under-construction waste treatment plant than is usually presented to the public.

Several former Hanford construction workers testified in a U.S. Department of Labor hearing in Kennewick Tuesday, saying managers at the nuclear site played dangerous pranks that ended in workers with bloodied fingers, an injured knee, a hurt arm and glue smeared across the face. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants a federal court order to bring more cooperation from the U.S. Department of Energy for cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site.

A federal court ordered the U.S. Department of Energy Friday to step up its solutions and timeline to clean up tank waste at Hanford in southeast Washington.

For a decade, one woman has been the top watchdog on the Hanford nuclear reservation for Washington state. Jane Hedges retires February 26.

In 1944, the U.S. pinned its hope on a secret project to win World War II. The government was counting on the B Reactor at Hanford in southeast Washington state to make enough plutonium in time. One of the physicists working against the clock was a 24-year-old woman: Leona (Woods) Marshall Libby.

About 10,000 people visit southeast Washington state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation every year. And after a few hours on the bus, some are dazed like tourists who’ve seen one Italian cathedral too many.

On those tours, they have guides. But even folks who don’t come to Hanford’s physical site have a "tour guide" -- someone who can translate the language of Hanford and its nuclear legacy: Liz Mattson.

Federal officials are conducting an investigation after plutonium escaped off the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. The plutonium is left over from a Cold War era factory at Hanford where plutonium was processed from a liquid into a solid form for bombs.

Wherever she was, she stood out for being half white, or half Japanese. Shirley Olinger will only whisper the racist names she was called as a girl.

In 1987, late in the Cold War, in a government reading room in Richland, Washington, a historian was studying newly released documents about the Hanford nuclear reservation. Then, a strange man approached her.

Hanford officials and community boosters In southeast Washington are hosting a celebration Thursday at an historic nuclear reactor. A signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday made the Manhattan Project National Historical Park official.

Cleaning up the central part of the Hanford nuclear reservation will take even longer. That’s the bottom line of a series of regional public comment meetings kicking off Wednesday in Richland, Washington.