Portion of tunnel collapses at Hanford

Lucy Hill
May 10, 2017

Nonessential employees have since been sent home, and essential employees were instructed to avoid the site of the tunnel. It is an area known as the 200 East Area.

Roughly 3,000 workers were affected by the "take cover" order this morning.

Currently, officials are still working on how to fix the cave-in without increasing the risk that contamination will be released.

Crews are now surveying the area near the PUREX tunnels for contamination. Workers in other areas of the Hanford Site have been told to stay inside.

Hanford Site Emergency Operations Center spokesman Destry Henderson provided a brief rundown on the day's events in a Facebook Live video on the site's Facebook page. "It's possible that at some point the soil above them was going to give in", Heeter said. Today, it is the most contaminated nuclear weapons plant in the US. Today, the site has leaked more than 1 million gallons of radioactive material into the surrounding earth.

"There is no evidence of a spread of contamination beyond this area", Heeter said.

No actions is required for residents of Benton and Franklin counties, the U.S. Department of Energy said in an advisory.

UPDATE: 11:33 a.m.

The TALON system allows crews to safely monitor the scene from up to half a mile away, the site says.

The PUREX building is the length of three football fields and was used to recover plutonium from irradiated fuel rods.

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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. A Site Area Emergency is declared when the event is affecting or could potentially affect personnel beyond the facility boundary but not beyond the boundary of the Hanford Site. The tunnels are located east of the PUREX Plant and extend to the south.

Robotic equipment is being used by technicians monitoring and surveying the area.

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

The U.S. Department of Energy said the Tuesday collapse covered about 400 square feet (37.1 square meters) instead of the 16 square feet (1.4 square meters) first reported at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

It might seem like this sort of thing would be noticed immediately, the worker said, but the tunnel may have actually collapsed days or weeks ago, and since there was no radiation release, it was only noticed during a regular site walk-around. Responders are getting closer to the area where the soil has subsided for further visual inspection. The depth of the subsidence of soil appears to be into the tunnel.

The initial alarm came at 8:26 a.m. Tuesday.

Highly contaminated items were stored in the tunnel that has collapsed at Hanford.

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone said the incident underscores the need for the department to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of workers.

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.

Workers demolish a decommissioned nuclear reactor during the cleanup operations at the nuclear site in Hanford, Wash., in 2011.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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