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nuclear energy

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.

A failed energy substation caused the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant to have to power down Sunday. Bonneville Power Administration officials are still investigating why it went offline, but it might be related to very cold weather.

The Columbia Generating Station outside Richland, Washington, is the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant. Now, the federal government is auditing the plant to make sure it could weather flooding.

Chernobyl and ‘the summer without children’

Apr 26, 2016
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Gleb Garanich/Reuters

On April 26, 1986, a routine test on reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went horribly wrong. The reactor in Ukraine, in the old Soviet Union, went into meltdown. It became the world’s worst peacetime nuclear disaster.

A power surge during the test led to a rupture and a series of steam explosions. There was a massive leak of radiation, leading to fallout eventually landing all across Europe.

Dozens died in the struggle to contain the disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated.

An Oregon-based nuclear company presented a detailed timeline Thursday for the deployment of its first small modular nuclear power plant. An executive from NuScale Power presented the roadmap during a keynote address to the International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summit taking place this week in Atlanta.

At the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, a recent anonymous letter has spurred a $150,000 investigation so far into the plant’s performance. The letter was penned by an apparent insider.

Independent investigators are onsite at the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, north of Richland, Washington.

Last summer officials at the only Northwest nuclear power plant changed their public evacuation plans and the federal government says in a report it wasn’t informed.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington is one of the most contaminated places on earth. It’s also one of the most sacred landscapes for Northwest tribes.

Two IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in April 2013.
Flickr Photo/IAEA Imagebank (CC-BY-NC-ND)

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Physician and anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott calls into question reporting about that event and its aftermath. Her frank assessment of the people who control nuclear power: “Don’t believe anything the nuclear industry says, because they lie.”

What are the effects of the Fukushima meltdowns? In 2013, in response to concerns that media and policy makers were ignoring the impacts, a panel of scientists, engineers and policy experts met in New York to review the aftermath of the disaster. 

Can Nuclear Power Ease Climate Disruptions?

May 27, 2014
Flickr Photo/Nuclear Regulatory Commission (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with Armond Cohen, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force. The group works on global commercialization of nuclear power and clean coal technology.

Report Looks At Columbia Generating Station Safety

Mar 10, 2014

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists says the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant reported three safety problems in 2013. Officials at the plant say the problems have been fixed.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Following the 2011 tsunami in Japan, a nuclear reactor released hundreds of millions of gallons of radioactive water into the ocean. That sparked fear that contaminated water would reach the West Coast, but three years later, scientists say that radiation in our waters isn’t necessarily linked to the nuclear reactor. 

There’s a new debate raging over the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant. But it’s not about safety or how to dispose of nuclear waste.

Just how clean is clean when it comes to removing radioactive tank waste? That’s one of the questions tackled in a new federal plan that will guide cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

We all burp sometimes. It turns out, so do underground waste tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

(This post was last updated at 4:40 p.m. ET.)

Just before the sun rose on Geneva on Sunday, international negotiators emerged to announce Iran and world powers had reached a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program for six months while the two sides work out a permanent, more sweeping solution.

Marcie Sillman interviews Kenneth Pollack, senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brooking Institute, about the status of a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program between the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran.

After nearly a year of study, the U.S. Department of Energy says fewer radioactive waste tanks appear to be leaking at Hanford than originally thought.

In early November, a federal appeals court will consider the case of a well-known Hanford whistleblower.

Washington officials say they’re disappointed but not surprised by news that the federal government likely will miss several more cleanup deadlines at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. 

At Hanford, radioactive sludge stews in aging underground tanks not far from the Columbia River. A 1989 agreement created the timeline for treating that caustic gunk. But the task has proven extremely difficult: A waste treatment plant has been plagued by whistleblowers, critical federal investigations, cost overruns and delays.

Eric Schlosser's book "Command and Control."

During The Cold War American military leaders and average citizens were sometimes kept awake at night worrying about a possible nuclear strike by the Soviet Union. US foreign policy continues to focus on nuclear programs in other countries like North Korea and Iran but Eric Schlosser says the nuclear threat is also here at home. David Hyde talks with the author of "Fast Food Nation" about his new book, "Command and Control."

Flickr Photo/Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Japanese officials are still battling radioactive groundwater that is leaking as a result of the Fukushima Nuclear plant meltdown triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The latest effort to block contaminated water from leaking into the Pacific Ocean is a $470 million ice wall. How do you build an ice wall and how does it work? Larry Applegate, the president of Seattle-based firm SoilFreeze, a company that  creates frozen walls and tunnels, explains the technology to Marcie Sillman.

Washington’s state Attorney General is praising an appeals court decision on a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The ruling requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get the licensing process back on track for Yucca Mountain.

The state of Washington wants Yucca Mountain to be the permanent waste repository for radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. But President Obama buried the project because of opposition from Nevada’s political leaders.

Federal regulators say the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant is now back on course after an 11-year safety miscalculation. The new designation means the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington gets a more relaxed inspection and oversight status.

Between 2000 and 2011, workers at the nuclear plant used faulty estimates for how much radiation could escape during a crisis. That mistake and others were found in an inspection just last year.

RICHLAND, Wash. – It may take two to four years to even begin clearing radioactive waste from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. That’s according to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He toured the southeast Washington nuclear site Wednesday.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new detail has emerged on the leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal Energy Department acknowledged last week that six single-shelled tanks are holding less radioactive waste than they used to. Monday the agency said those tanks are losing less than three gallons a day.

Worst case: Three gallons per day adds up to 1,095 gallons of radioactive waste per year. The Department of Energy says it doesn’t know yet how long these tanks might have been seeping waste.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A tank full of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington may be leaking. Friday the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors say liquid levels in an underground radioactive waste tank are going down.

The single-hulled tank is called T-111. It’s located in central Hanford in a group of tanks called T-farm. The Department of Energy reports the rate of loss is about 150 to 300 gallons of liquid a year.

RICHLAND, Wash. - A bipartisan group of senior senators is drafting a bill to overhaul the U.S. nuclear-waste program. The group, which includes Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, is aiming to find a permanent home for the nation’s radioactive waste.