Tunnel collapses at Washington state nuke site

James Marshall
May 13, 2017

Frank Pallone said the incident underscores the need for the Department of Energy to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of workers. "Hanford made more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel for nine nuclear reactors along the Columbia River".

Eight rail cars are in the tunnel that collapsed, but it feeds into a longer tunnel that contains 28 loaded rail cars.

So far, radiation dangers and injuries appear to have been averted, but tests and monitoring are continuing, they say.

Spokeswoman for the Oregon Energy Department spokeswoman Rachel Wray, meanwhile, cautiously told USA Today, "Hanford is 35 miles away from Oregon". In the past, rail cars full of radioactive waste were driven deep into the tunnels and then simply buried there.

The Hanford site, about 200 miles from Seattle, produced plutonium for USA nuclear weapons from World War II through the Cold War. No action was required for residents of Benton and Franklin counties, the U.S. Department of Energy said in an advisory.

"No employees were injured in this event", he said.

The former nuclear weapons production site employs more than 9,000 people, majority involved in cleaning up the nation's largest collection of nuclear waste.

The rail tunnel was built in 1956 out of timber, concrete and steel, topped by 8 feet of dirt.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry acknowledged the problem with nuclear waste, saying the nation can no longer delay fixing the problem because lives are at stake.

The collapse was spotted by workers doing routine surveillance.

"It's too early to know what caused the roof to cave in", said Henderson. Reactors at Hanford produced plutonium for the USA nuclear weapons program.

Officials say a collapsed patch of ground above a nuclear waste storage tunnel in Washington state was larger than first believed. 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 evacuation did not affect the nearby nuclear power plant operated by Energy Northwest, company spokesman John Dobken said.

A 20-foot hole in the roof of a tunnel at Washington state's Hanford nuclear waste site will be filled with clean soil, according to the US Department of Energy.

No spent nuclear fuel is stored in the tunnel, Energy Department officials said. It was created by the USA government to produce huge amounts of plutonium, which is used in the creation of nuclear weapons.

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

The U.S. Department of Energy said it has activated its emergency operations protocol in Hanford, a small agricultural community in south-central Washington, about 200 miles from Seattle.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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