RT – May 9, 2017
The US Department of Energy has declared an emergency at the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste storage site, after a cave-in of a tunnel used to store radioactive materials and equipment.
About 3,000 workers have taken cover at the 200 East Area of the sprawling complex, local media reported. By 10:30 am local time, the “take cover” orders have been expanded to the entire site, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.
A portion of a tunnel near the plutonium-uranium extraction plant (PUREX) collapsed early Tuesday morning local time, most likely from vibrations produced by nearby road work, KING-TV reported.
Initial reports spoke of a 4-foot (1.2 meter) hole, which was later expanded to 20 feet (6 meters) across, at the junction of two tunnels used in the 1960s to store highly radioactive materials and equipment, such as trains used to transport nuclear fuel rods.
The PUREX facility was built in the 1950s and used until 1988 to extract plutonium from around 70,000 fuel rods in total. The building has been vacant for nearly twenty years and “remains highly contaminated,”according to the Hanford website. Rail cars used to transport the fuel rods from the nuclear reactors to the processing facility are buried inside the nearby tunnels.