February 21, 2018

Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

10 May 2017, 04:14 | Frank Carlson

Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

"There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point", the statement said.

Hundreds of workers at a nuclear site in the USA state of Washington were ordered to take cover after a storage tunnel filled with contaminated material partially collapsed yesterday, but there was no indication of a radioactive leak.

A spokesman for the Washington Emergency Management Division said the state Emergency Operations Centre has been activated.

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.

An emergency has been declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.

The Associated Press, citing a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology, says no workers were inside the tunnel at the time of the collapse, no injuries were reported and no radiation release has been detected.

If there should be a release of contamination that goes beyond the boundaries of the Hanford site, it would mean that produce would not be allowed in or out of the affected area, Miller said.

The cave-in occurred near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX, located in the middle of the sprawling Hanford site, which is 1500 square kilometres in size.

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Officials evacuated some personnel close to the incident immediately while ordering others to shelter in place.

The agency says the rail tunnels are hundreds of feet long, with about eight feet (2.4 meters) of soil covering them. The tunnel in question may itself contain items that were used when the plant was operating and which remain contaminated.

"Several rail cars used to transport the irradiated fuel rods from the Hanford nuclear reactors to the processing canyons are temporarily buried inside a tunnel near PUREX as a result of becoming contaminated", the website says. The site has been described in media reports as the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States.

The area contains about 56 million gallons (211.98 million liters) of radioactive waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks.

According to CBS News, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was created during World War II to secretly build the atomic bomb.

Hanford became a focal point of USA nuclear efforts beginning in 1943, when aspects of the Manhattan Project were moved there, CNN reported.

The last reactor shut down in 1987, shortly before the mammoth cleanup effort began.

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