Tunnel containing nuclear waste collapses in Washington

Cameron Gross
May 18, 2017

Located to the east of the PUREX facility, the tunnels were used since the 1950s to store contaminated equipment.

Washington State Department of Ecology spokesperson Randy Bradbury laid concerns of a possible radiation leak to rest, saying that officials detected that no radiation was released by the tunnel collapse.

The U.S. Department of Energy, Richland, West Richland, and other local fire and police officials as well as Washington state patrol and OR and Washington state officials all responded to the scene, according to KING5.

Spokeswoman for the Oregon Energy Department spokeswoman Rachel Wray, meanwhile, cautiously told USA Today, "Hanford is 35 miles away from Oregon".

But never, he said, has there been a tunnel collapse.

Between 1947 and 1956, as the arms race between America and the Soviet Union ramped up, five new plutonium production reactors were added, as were two chemical reprocessing plants and 81 underground waste storage tanks.

No broader warnings were issued for workers in other parts of the facility or civilians in surrounding areas, said the spokeswoman, who stressed the precautionary nature of warnings issued to workers.

Responding agencies include the U.S. Department of Energy; Richland, West Richland, and Kennewick city fire and police; Benton, Franklin, and Grant County fire and police officials; Washington state patrol; and OR and Washington state officials. The Energy Department has said there is no evidence showing workers have been harmed by vapors. Crews are now surveying the area near the PUREX tunnels for contamination.

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The Hanford site was built during World War II and made plutonium for most of the USA nuclear arsenal, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the war. "Collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release".

He noted the Energy Department a year ago received permission to delay removing waste from the tunnels until 2042. Nearby workers were evacuated. A site area emergency is limited to the boundaries of the Hanford site but could affect staff beyond the immediate facility.

The Energy Department in recent years has spent about $2 billion a year on cleanup work.

An emergency was declaration at the nuclear waste site in southeastern Washington state which for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The 360-foot-long tunnel where the partial collapse occurred contains eight rail cars loaded with contaminated equipment.

Employees at the sprawling Hanford Site plant were sent an early morning alert by management telling them to "secure ventilation" and refrain from "eating or drinking".

Hanford, built by the Manhattan Project in World War II, contains the nation's greatest volume of radioactive waste left over from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Other reports by BadHub

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