Chairman JoDe Goudy of the Yakama Nation speaks at the Native Nations Rise rally in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) >>>> Find even more photos on Flickr
Environment | National

Yakama Nation upset by break in storage tunnel at nuclear waste facility

An emergency was declared after a nuclear waste storage tunnel collapsed at the Hanford Site in Washington earlier this week.

While no injuries were reported and no radioactive material is believed to have been released, the Yakama Nation is bothered by the incident. The collapse went unnoticed for days because no one regularly inspects the tunnels, the tribe said.

“Although we are relieved that there are no known injuries or radioactive releases to the environment, it does not negate the fact that the existence of the Hanford Nuclear Site, which is the largest hazardous waste site in the western hemisphere and within Yakama homelands, is yet another legacy of hundreds of years of Euro-American doctrines of domination and dehumanization of the Native peoples,” Chairman JoDe Goudy said in a statement, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Crews filled in the tunnel and completed work on Wednesday, a day after the collapse was detected. “Our next step is to identify and implement longer-term measures to further reduce risks,” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a statement.

Crews at the Hanford Site have filled the hole in the tunnel near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant (PUREX) with...

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Tens of millions of gallons of radioactive waste are stored at the Hanford site, sometimes referred to as a “nuclear reservation.” The facility is located 33 miles from the eastern border of the Yakama Reservation and near the Columbia River.

Although the land that includes Hanford was ceded to the United States through treaties signed in 1855, the agreements guaranteed tribal access to the area. Those uses were restricted when the federal government unilaterally began using the site for nuclear research, testing and other activities during World War II and through the Cold War.

The Wanapum Band lived on the land that includes Hanford up until being forced out. The tribe lacks federal recognition as a separate entity although some descendants are enrolled in the Yakama Nation.

Read More on the Story:
Yakamas call for faster cleanup of Hanford tunnel (The Yakima Herald-Republic 5/11)
Hole in radioactive waste tunnel filled, difficult work ahead (The Tri-City Herald 5/11)
Yakama Nation to Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Step Your Game Up, Sis (KFFM 5/10)
US nuclear site’s collapsed tunnel may have gone unnoticed (AP 5/10)