Department of Energy declares emergency at former nuclear production site in WA state

2017-05-09_1356 Hanford nuclear site in Washington state AFP_Getty
The Hanford Site, Washington state. Photo: AFP/Getty

From NPR

The Department of Energy has declared an emergency at a nuclear-contaminated site in Washington state, after the suspected collapse of a tunnel containing rail cars contaminated with nuclear waste.

Workers have been evacuated from the area or told to seek shelter; there have been no reports of injuries.

The Hanford Site, about 150 miles southeast of Seattle, is a former nuclear production complex and home to a long-running, challenging and sometimes troubled cleanup operation.

The Department of Energy says a 20-foot-by-20-foot section of soil has sunk unusually low over a tunnel next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility.

Personnel at the site have been evacuated, the department says, and workers nearby have been sent indoors “as a precaution,” as responders move closer for investigation.

The tunnel in question was storing rail cars that carried radioactive nuclear fuel from reactors to production facilities, back when the site was still used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

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.

“The Hanford Fire Department is on scene,” the Department of Energy reports. “Workers in the vicinity are still being sheltered as a precaution.”

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