— Washington state: Emergency declared at Hanford nuclear waste site after tunnel collapse

From RT

May 9, 2017

The US Department of Energy has declared an emergency at the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste storage site, after a cave-in of a tunnel used to store radioactive materials and equipment.

About 3,000 workers have taken cover at the 200 East Area of the sprawling complex, local media reported. By 10:30 am local time, the “take cover” orders have been expanded to the entire site, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.

A portion of a tunnel near the plutonium-uranium extraction plant (PUREX) collapsed early Tuesday morning local time, most likely from vibrations produced by nearby road work, KING-TV reported.

Initial reports spoke of a 4-foot (1.2 meter) hole, which was later expanded to 20 feet (6 meters) across, at the junction of two tunnels used in the 1960s to store highly radioactive materials and equipment, such as trains used to transport nuclear fuel rods.

This robot is being used at Hanford right now to sample contamination in the air and on the ground.

The PUREX facility was built in the 1950s and used until 1988 to extract plutonium from around 70,000 fuel rods in total. The building has been vacant for nearly twenty years and “remains highly contaminated,”according to the Hanford website. Rail cars used to transport the fuel rods from the nuclear reactors to the processing facility are buried inside the nearby tunnels.

Press release from Department of Energy on Hanford Site Emergency. We’re still monitoring the situation. http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/eoc/?page=290 

No workers were injured in the collapse, and officials have detected no release of radiation, Washington state Department of Ecology spokesman Randy Bradbury told AP.

“In the ‘60s, spent fuel rods were put in railroad cars and, once filled, the railroad cars were wheeled into a tunnel dug into the side of a hill,” Bradbury said. “Twenty-eight rail cars in all fill this particular tunnel. A worker today noticed a collapse of dirt above the tunnel today, triggering the evacuation.”

READ MORE: Radioactive contamination spreading in shuttered Hanford Site nuclear plant

Workers at the complex have been ordered to stay indoors and refrain from eating and drinking, according to text alerts seen by local media. Emergency crews are organizing the evacuation.

HANFORD NEW: Managers just sent this alert to employees.

UPDATE FROM HANFORD: eating now allowed but some areas still in lockdown.

Emergency measures were put in place due to “concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels,” says a statement posted on the Hanford facility website.

Residents of the nearby Benton and Franklin counties do not need to take any action, the facility said.

Photo of massive plutonium finishing plant at Hanford. Tunnel that collapsed led to this building.

Hanford Source: “This is the biggest deal I’ve seen at Hanford in my 35 years here.”

Hanford is located on the Columbia River in eastern Washington, near the border with Oregon. Built during World War Two as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the nuclear bomb, it still contains roughly 53 million gallons – over 2,600 rail cars – worth of high-level nuclear waste, left from the production of plutonium for the US nuclear weapons program.

A number of current and former Hanford workers suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic waste leaks and burps of radiation at the complex, RT America reported in April 2016.

— Food chain collapses yet “nowhere is any of this said to be possibly connected to radiation from Japan”

Question posed on Armstrong Economics, February 13, 2017

I have just returned from visiting my friend, who is a senior cetacean biologist at one of the large west coast universities. While there, he described an amazing situation to me that has alarmed me greatly. He said that research at his university has conclusively identified the complete or almost complete collapse of several dozen food chains within the Pacific Ocean, all within the last 36 months or so. Further, in “unauthorized” exchanges with the relevant departments in other coast universities, he learned that the numbers involved may well be more like hundreds of chain collapses in the same timeframe as opposed to dozens. Finally, in talking with authoritative figures in Vancouver, they apparently believe that the figure is likely closer to 1000. My friend also explained that equally alarming is the fact that all these research departments are finding within the genres of sea life they have physically examined within the same timeframe “huge numbers of general body mutations, as well as skin disorders” which all cannot yet be accounted for in terms of causation.
As bad as all of this sounds, here is the real rub. Regarding these findings about food chain collapses, mutations, and injuries, my friend’s university has instituted a policy that forbids them from publishing their findings, from discussing their findings (on this subject) publicly or in private with other researchers outside their own campus, or finally from taking “unauthorized” radiation readings as part of their research. The penalties for violating these new rules are severe: loss of tenure, civil lawsuits for violation of contract, and potentially employment termination. He showed me a memo on the subject from her own university, so there is no doubt about that in my mind. For the part about colleagues at other universities encountering the same things, I have nothing but my his word but that is good enough for me.

I have never viewed myself as an alarmist or a conspiracist, and I know that he is neither of those things; he is someone who has always been dedicated to the scientific method and to facts. However, despite the preposterous look of this thing I must say that I feel something is badly wrong here. In doing some quick research on all of this, I have indeed found quite a number of articles from mainline sources talking about massive food chain collapses in the Pacific, but not quite on the scale my friend’s colleagues have suggested, and nowhere is any of this said to be possibly connected to radiation from Japan…

——————————————

The “answer” includes:

There are some who believe the mutations and dead was set in motion by the nuclear disaster in Japan. The data I have run demonstrates that we are headed toward another spike in the extinction cycle. This is entirely normal cyclical activity….Obviously, man may be aggravating the cycle increasing the amplitude, but there is no evidence that this cycle is set in motion by humankind. This appears to be a natural cycle at this point….

He wouldn’t even use the word “Fukushima”.

The query’s information, if true, is certainly supported by the “there, there; don’t worry over Fukushima” approach in the media, from government officials, and by scientists. When ocean disasters are covered, Fukushima is almost never mentioned. The information about universities is not surprising, if true.

https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/international-news/nature/has-the-extinction-cycle-also-turned-against-us/

— 530 sieverts per hour at Fukushima reactor; officials find section under reactor is “unstable… about to collapse” — “Bad, bad news… Time to reconsider that trip to the east coast of Japan” (VIDEOS)

From ENE News

February 3, 2017

NHK World, Feb 3, 2017 (emphasis added): The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is examining if it can go ahead with a plan to deploy a robot into one of the damaged reactors at the facility… An analysis of the images found that the radiation level inside the vessel was up to 530 sieverts per hour. Officials speculate that fuel debris–a mixture of nuclear fuel and melted parts of the reactor’s facility–may be emitting strong radiation inside the vessel… Last week’s probe found that part of a metal grating just beneath the reactor was missing. The robot was supposed to move around on the grating. The image analysis also found that an around one square-meter section near the missing segment is about to collapse.

NHK World transcript, Feb 3, 2017: “[Tepco] is facing more setbacks. Tepco has found unstable grating near a rector that will make it difficult to conduct further surveillance to help it decommission the plant… They found a section the size of a square meter is about to collapse. They had already found holes in other sections… A nuclear power expert suggests that will make it difficult for workers to locate the fuel.”

NHK World transcript, Feb 3, 2017 (at 1:30 in): “Engineers were able to get a glimpse inside Reactor No. 2… They found that a section one meter square is about to collapse. They had already found holes in other sections.”

Asahi, Feb 3, 2017: TEPCO said it will consider a different route for the robot… Fumiya Tanabe, an expert on nuclear safety… said the findings show that both the preparation for and the actual decommissioning process at the plant will likely prove much more difficult than expected. “We have few clues on the exact locations, the sizes and the shapes of the nuclear fuel debris,” he said. “The planned investigation by the robot needs a rethink. Work to decommission the plant will require even more time.”

CNET, Feb 3, 2017: High radiation levels at Fukushima reactor is bad, bad news — Time to reconsider that trip to the east coast of Japan. A containment vessel at the destroyed Fukushima No. 1 power plant has reached off-the-chart radiation levels, reported the Japan Times… Experts believe that escaped melted fuel can account for the spiked reading.

Watch NHKs’s broadcast here: #1 | #2

http://enenews.com/alert-collapse-imminent-at-fukushima-tv-officials-find-large-section-under-reactor-is-unstable-about-to-collapse-bad-bad-news-time-to-reconsider-that-trip-to-the-east-coast-of-jap

As Pacific sardine collapse worsens, scientists worry about ecosystem ripple

Researchers can’t tell exactly what’s driving the die-off…”Those ocean life patterns are just not working the way they have in the past,” said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From the Oregonian

By Kelly House | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
March 10, 2016

Charts on website

Nearly a year into a West Coast sardine fishing ban enacted to protect the collapsing population, the fish formerly worth more than $8 million to Oregon’s economy have shown no signs of a comeback.

New federal research indicates numbers of the small, silvery, schooling fish have plummeted further than before the fishing moratorium, dashing any hope of lifting it in 2016.

With the current sardine population hovering at 7 percent of its 2007 peak, fishermen now say they expect to wait a decade or more to revive the fishery.

“I don’t want to take a pessimistic view, but I would think we’ll be shut down until 2030,” said Ryan Kapp, a Bellingham fisherman who advises the Pacific Fishery Management Council on sardines and other fish.

Sardines aren’t struggling in isolation. Other fish near the bottom of the marine food web, such as anchovies and herring, are also down. The shortage of sustenance is rippling upward to create crises for predator species from seals to seabirds.

Researchers can’t tell exactly what’s driving the die-off, nor how long it will last. Some say the crash can be attributed to cyclical boom-and-bust population dynamics sardines have always exhibited.

Others argue overfishing played a role, driving sardine populations down too far and too fast to blame it on a natural population flux.

Then there’s the unavoidable presence of the “warm blob,” a lingering mass of overheated water that for more than two years has wreaked havoc on sea life off the Pacific coast.

Those ocean life patterns are just not working the way they have in the past,” said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that tracks sardine numbers. “There’s a feeling that a lot of this is environmentally-driven.”

RIPPLES IN THE FOOD CHAIN

The Pacific fishery council’s rules call for a fishery shutdown if the total weight of adult sardines falls below 150,000 metric tons. When the population fell below that threshold last spring, council members scrambled to enact a midseason shutdown.

Federal scientists last month estimated sardine biomass has dropped below 65,000 tons this year.

Even with fishing pressures lifted, sardines could struggle to bounce back in an ocean devoid of their main food source. The lipid-rich coldwater plankton that sardines like to eat have become scarcer in West Coast waters, replaced by tropical species with less appeal to the region’s predators. Scientists suspect the warm blob is causing the plankton shift.

Without that food source, “the whole system can suffer,” said Kerry Griffin, who manages sardines for the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The end result is ominous for more than just fishermen. Oily sardines are a key food source for larger ocean-going animals. As that option becomes scarce, predators switch to less-nutritious food options and can end up starving.

Scientists believe that chain reaction is already playing out in a big way. A group of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers last week released a study linking the sardine collapse to the surge in starving sea lion pups washing ashore along the California coast. The scientists who authored the study say they expect the mass starvation that stranded 3,000 pups last year to continue as long as forage fish numbers remain low.

Similar phenomena have been observed among other species that target small schooling fish for food. Brown pelicans are failing to breed, dead Guadalupe fur seals are washing ashore in California, undersize salmon are returning to Canadian spawning grounds and seabirds are washing ashore weakened or dead on the Oregon coast.

OVERFISHING?

Environmentalists for years warned that a sardine collapse was imminent. Now they have begun lobbying to get more conservative harvest policies in place before the fishery reopens.

Research shows that overfishing intensifies the cyclical downturns of sardines and other small fish, and ocean conservation groups argue current West Coast standards are too permissive to prevent overfishing.

Ben Enticknap, a Portland-based campaign manager for the international conservation group Oceana, said the group is pushing the council to adopt new standards that would trigger a fishing ban once the sardine stock drops below 640,000 metric tons. That trigger point is more than four times higher than the current level.

The group is also lobbying for a rule to prohibit fishermen from hauling in more than 15 percent of the adult population in a given season. In the final years of harvest before last year’s shutdown, fishermen caught as much as 28 percent of the adult sardines in the water.

“Fundamental flaws in management have to be fixed, or this crash will be repeated in the future,” Enticknap said.

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

Although the overall results of this year’s sardine count were discouraging, scientists say there’s a glimmer of hope.

Several years of poor reproduction helped drive down the sardine population. In their latest trawl, scientists saw evidence that 2015 was a good spawning year.

It’s too soon to tell whether the reproductive success signals a turning point.

“There are some potentially positive signs there,” Milstein said, but in order to boost population counts, “the young need to survive long enough to make it into the mature population.”

–Kelly House

khouse@oregonian.com
503-221-8178
@Kelly_M_House

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2016/03/as_pacific_sardine_collapse_wo.html

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