Emergency declared at Hanford nuclear site in Washington state

Adjust Comment Print

Washington's KING-TV reports that a portion of a tunnel that transports trains carrying radioactive material collapsed early on Tuesday morning, with officials warning workers at the facility to take emergency precautions.

The state's Department of Ecology has reportedly confirmed that there has been no detected radiation leak, and no confirmed threat to the health of workers.

"We don't know exactly how the soil caved in, it's too early", Heeter said.

No workers were in the tunnel but those at the site were evacuated.

"All personnel in the immediate area have been accounted for - they are safe - and there is no evidence of a radiological release", Destry Henderson, spokesperson for the Hanford site's emergency operations center, said in a brief statement on Facebook.

"This is a serious situation, and ensuring the safety of the workers and the community is the top priority", Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. He went on to say that the White House had already reached out to his office as well. Anna King of the Northwest News Network, a public radio station collaboration, reports that approximately 3,000 other workers in the area were originally taking cover indoors.

The committee oversees the Energy Department's management of cleanup efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation 200 miles southeast of Seattle. Hanford made the plutonium for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and much of the plutonium for the nation's nuclear arsenal.


No spent nuclear fuel is stored in the tunnel, and no further evacuations have been ordered for workers, nor have any warnings for civilians around the site been issued, she said.

"At that point.an emergency was declared and about half a dozen employees at the facility were evacuated", he said. The tunnels are hundreds of feet long, covered in about eight feet of soil. Though there were thankfully no workers in the tunnel at the time of the collapse, those in the rest of the facility have been told to "take cover".

UPDATE: 12:11 p.m.

The Purex (Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant) separations facility at the Hanford Works is seen in an undated aerial photo.

"Nowhere in the DOE Complex is cleanup more challenging than at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington", the Energy Department said on its website.

The incident was in the 200 East Area, which is located in the center of the reservation. The breached tunnel was used to "bury radioactive waste from the production of plutonium", Inslee said. The building has been vacant for almost 20 years but remains highly contaminated. These plants processed 110,000 tons of fuel from nine nuclear reactors along the Columbia River.

Comments