Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

May 10, 2017, 03:06

The U.S. Department of Energy said the collapse covered about 400 square feet (37.1 square meters) instead of the 16 square feet (1.4 square meters) first reported. Extremely sensitive radiation detectors all over the Hanford Site would have noticed even in a minuscule increase in radiation immediately, the worker explained. After more than 20 years and $19 billion [,] not a drop of waste has been treated. "There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point". "The tunnels are hundreds of feet long, with approximately eight feet of soil covering them", according to an update from Hanford.

The collapse was spotted by workers doing routine surveillance. He said the plant lies near the middle of the Hanford site and was "a very high hazard operation". Workers at the decommissioned Hanford plutonium uranium extraction plant were evacuated, and those nearby were urged to take cover, secure ventilation areas and refrain from eating or drinking. A new report says Congress should consider authorizing the Department of Energy to use grout to stabilize some of Hanford's radioactive waste, rather than a more expensive plan to turn it into glass.

He added that workers in other areas were told to take cover after emergency crews discovered that the roof of the tunnel had collapsed.

The state's Department of Ecology has reportedly confirmed that there has been no detected radiation leak, and no confirmed threat to the health of workers.

"We don't know exactly how the soil caved in, it's too early", Heeter said.

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Since 1989, the government has been in the process of cleaning up the site.

Hanford, which is roughly half the size of Rhode Island, spent decades making plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.

The US Department of Energy said it activated its emergency operations protocol after reports of a "cave-in" at the 200 East Area in Hanford, home to numerous solid waste sites about 200 miles from Seattle. Its last reactor closed down in 1987 but millions of gallons of leftover waste are contained in tanks at the site.

The Hanford site was built during World War II and made plutonium for most of the US nuclear arsenal, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of the war.

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