Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

Ashley Carr
May 10, 2017

A tunnel partly collapsed on Tuesday at a plutonium-handling facility at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, but there was no indication workers or the public were exposed to radiation, federal officials said.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the Tuesday collapse covered about 400 square feet (37.1 square meters) instead of the 16 square feet (1.4 square meters) first reported at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The tunnel is next to a plutonium uranium extraction facility.

The latest estimate to finish the overall cleanup of Hanford is more than $107 billion and the work would take until 2060. "There are no reports of injuries, no reports of a radiological release".

The AP reports "there are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels".

But while the cleanup of the Hanford Site has continued for decades, the tunnels themselves have been allowed to decay, the worker said. The Hanford Fire Department remained on scene to assess the situation.

Lawyers for the Energy Department have said no evidence has been provided showing workers have been harmed by vapors.

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"Federal, state and local officials are coordinating closely on the response, and the state Department of Ecology is in close communication with the U.S. Department of Energy Richland Office". The site has been described in media reports as the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States.

The tunnel in question was storing rail cars that carried radioactive nuclear fuel from reactors to production facilities, back when the site was still used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Employees at the sprawling Hanford Site plant, located about 275 kilometers southeast of Seattle, were sent an early morning alert by management telling them to "secure ventilation" and refrain from "eating or drinking".

The Hanford nuclear site was used to produce plutonium for the bomb that brought an end to World War II.

The budget for Hanford alone is about $2.3 billion in the current fiscal year, about $1.5 billion of that going to the management and treatment of approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste now stored in underground storage tanks.

Other reports by My Hot News

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