Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

Warren File

Hundreds of workers at a nuclear site in the USA state of Washington were ordered to take cover on Tuesday (May 9) after a tunnel filled with contaminated material collapsed near the facility, federal officials said.

Officials detected no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.

A U.S. Department of Energy news release says Perry was told the agency will monitor the situation.

"The subsidence of soil was discovered during a routine surveillance of the area by workers", it said.

But while the cleanup of the Hanford Site has continued for decades, the tunnels themselves have been allowed to decay, the worker said. "The tunnels are hundreds of feet long, with approximately eight feet of soil covering them". It was not immediately clear why it happened at the facility with about 9,000 employees.

The anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear said the incident helped show "radioactive waste management is out of control".

Earlier this morning, the Hanford Site-which is where the United States produced most of its plutonium for nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki-declared an emergency.

The emergency was triggered after workers noticed a 20-foot section of tunnel, used to store contaminated and highly radioactive materials at the site, collapsed next to a building known as the Plutonium Uranium Extraction, or PUREX facility.

Responding agencies include the U.S. Department of Energy; Richland, West Richland, and Kennewick city fire and police; Benton, Franklin, and Grant County fire and police officials; Washington state patrol; and OR and Washington state officials.

Hanford for decades made plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.

Cleaning up radioactive materials at the Hanford site, a federal facility, has been one of the Energy Department's priorities for years. "Our understanding is that the site went into immediate lockdown, in which workers were told to seek shelter, and all access to the area has been closed", Inslee said in a statement.

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