Hanford collapse larger than first believed

Hanford collapse larger than first believed

Hundreds of workers at the Hanford nuclear waste site in the USA state of Washington have been ordered to "take cover" after a tunnel, containing radioactive material and contaminated trains, partially collapsed.

Tuesday morning employees at the Hanford Nuclear Site were told to "take-cover" due to the possibility that radioactive particles may have been released into the air following the collapse of some soil above a tunnel that contains radioactive material.

But officials say no radiation was released and no workers were hurt.

Non-essential workers are being sent home from a nuclear waste storage site in Washington state after the partial collapse of an underground tunnel where nuclear waste is kept in rail cars. "There are no reports of injuries, no reports of a radiological release".

"Ensuring the safety of the workers and the community is the top priority", said Inslee, a Democrat who previously represented the Hanford region in Congress. He went on to say that the White House had already reached out to his office as well. Workers considered essential for site operations are being told to report to work while avoiding the area of the emergency.

Local authorities ordered the evacuation of workers from the plant, located 360 kilometers southeast of Seattle and has about 200,000 cubic meters of radioactive material.

Beginning in 1943 and lasting for more than 40 years, Hanford made plutonium for nuclear weapons, including for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki.

The latest estimate to finish the overall cleanup of Hanford is more than US$107 billion (NZ$155bn) and the work would take until 2060. Lawyers for the Energy Department say there has been no evidence provided showing workers have been harmed by emissions. "We don't know how to deal with this stuff".

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A reporter for the station said the tunnel that collapsed is connected to the facility's uranium extraction plant.

The accident sparked an alert at 8:26 a.m. "There was a 20-foot wide hole", the spokeswoman said.

"The roof had caved in about a 20 foot section of that tunnel".

A statement by the US Department of Energy said personnel at the facility were evacuated and workers in potentially affected areas had gone indoors. Earlier, the department had estimated the size of the breached roof area at about 4 feet by 4 feet.

UPDATE: 12:11 p.m.

"I am committed to working with you in prioritising what is one of the most risky, polluted sites we have in the country", Mr Perry told a Washington State senator during his confirmation hearing.

Yakima County Emergency Operations Center is staying in close contact with the Benton-Franklin EOC, which is fully staffed at this time with police and fire crews and remains in constant contact with the Hanford site, Miller said.

The incident was in the 200 East Area, which is located in the center of the reservation. The emergency seems to have started near the PUREX facility, used for extracting plutonium from spent fuel rods. The building has been vacant for almost 20 years but remains highly contaminated.

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