Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My Life Became the Start of a Sci-Fi Novel Yesterday...

When hubby-Eric and I moved out here almost a decade ago, I knew we were moving near the Hanford Nuclear site, but I never really thought about it much. The Hanford Reach is over a "mountain", well out of sight and mind. Neither of us traveled near it for any reason. Although some folks who live near us work on the cleanup, most people don't talk about it because - well, because it's Hanford. And even 70+ years later, it feels like a secret place.

The first inkling I had of the dangers was a long time ago, when I saw a listing for a house in this area that included a reinforced bunker/fallout shelter. I was amused. Although nuclear war was still a real threat when I was growing up, by the time I reached adulthood it seemed like a distant memory.

The next time I recall having the risks of Hanford brought home to me was when I sat in as a reporter on a meeting about a lot of different budget items, including Hanford cleanup. The article that I produced was about the budget stuff, but I'll never forget the information presented about the cleanup and how difficult it is. Still, it didn't seem like it would ever have any impact on me, so I filed it away and forgot.

Until yesterday.

Hanford is a mess. It produced plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War - including the bombs that ended WWII in the Pacific. It didn't stop this work until 1987, which means there is more than 40 years of nuclear waste from bomb-making at the site. Since 1987, the government has been trying to clean it up - a job made incredibly difficult because there are 70-year-old tanks rotting away underground, and radioactive barrels with unknown materials in them stored in a mishmash of places, mostly underground.

At the site, as we learned yesterday, there are some tunnels that were made to store rail cars carrying contaminated equipment. From the site: "The tunnels were constructed of wood and concrete with a soil covering approximately 8 feet deep." They are near the center of the site, which is HUGE. Hanford is apparently about half the size of Rhode Island.

Yesterday morning, some folks doing their job noticed a subsidence over one of the tunnels. Part of the tunnel had collapsed. In fact, a fairly large section of the tunnel had collapsed. Which meant there was a possibility of the release of toxic or radioactive materials into the air.

Immediately, the entire site went into lock-down, with the 9,000 or so employees asked to shelter in place. My guess is that anyone else on the Reach (which is larger than the site itself) was also asked to leave immediately, just in case.

The road hubby-Eric takes to work goes right through the Reach - right past the main gates of Hanford.

I learned about the "incident" just before noon, and immediately started to worry about Eric and his trip home. Then I started to wonder about me and how safe we are here and pulled up a map. As the crow flies, I'm sitting about 30 miles from where the incident occurred. Less than 30 miles from the main gate.

As I was searching for more information about these tunnels and the potential danger to hubby and myself, the news broke that Nixo- er, Trump had fired the person investigating him. I kind of fell into a state of shock... I'm now living in the Twilight Zone. I'm in a nuclear danger area with an irresponsible government. I no longer feel safe at all.

I do wonder, though. Is this the start of some inspiring science fiction tale where a hero comes to save the day, or is it a horror tale where everything goes terribly wrong and we end up in a dystopia, eating each other to survive? Or perhaps it'll be a comedy, in which the clown president is tossed into jail by the Congressional Keystone Kops?

All I know is that I'd rather read this book than be in it.