A tunnel at the Hanford nuclear plant in Washington state plant collapsed on Tuesday morning, prompting a mass evacuation. Hundreds of employees of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation were told to “take cover” after a tunnel in the plutonium finishing plant collapsed around 8:30 a.m. in Washington state.
There were reportedly no workers in the tunnel at the time of the collapse. A manager sent a message to workers telling them to “secure ventilation in your building” and to “refrain from eating or drinking.” Workers at the site have been evacuated and those who were farther away were instructed to shelter-in-place and remain indoors.
Some are calling the incident a “crisis.”
The tunnel allegedly contained highly contaminated materials including nuclear waste trains that are used to transport radioactive fuel rods. The tunnel connects to a PUREX (plutonium uranium extraction) building.
The U.S. Department of Energy activated its Emergency Operations Center following the collapse and released a statement.
“The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Richland Operations Office activated the Hanford Emergency Operations Center at 8:26 a.m,” the Department of Energy said in a statement. “There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility. The tunnels contain contaminated materials.”
Some believe the collapse was caused by vibrations from nearby road work.
So far no radiation has been detected.
From the Independent:
The nuclear site, located in the city of Hanford, is a former plutonium production site that was used to help develop the American nuclear arsenal 70 years ago. More recently, however, a private contractor hired by the Department of Energy is working on a $110 billion project to clean up 56 million gallons of chemical and nuclear waste stored in as many as 177 underground tanks there.
Before the collapse, those tanks were reportedly leaking toxic and radioactive vapours and chemicals that have been linked to cancer, brain damage, and lung damage. There were at least 61 workers exposed to those deadly vapours last year. Experts have called the location “the most toxic place in America” and “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.”