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Hanford Nuclear Reservation Tunnel Collapses, Forcing Emergency Evacuations

An emergency evacuation for workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was issued this morning after a portion of a storage tunnel that contains rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed.

Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state of Department of Ecology said officials did not detect any release of radiation and no workers were injured during the incident.

Fortunately, there were no workers working in the tunnel when the tunnel suddenly collapsed. However, nearby Hanford workers were told to evacuate and others farther away to stay indoors, according to U.S. Department of Energy.

The accident occurred at a facility known as PUREX in Hanford, WA. The collapse occurred at one of two rail tunnels under the PUREX site.

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

The closed PUREX plant was part of the nation’s nuclear weapons production complex.

Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons and is now the largest depository of radioactive defense waste that must be cleaned.

It contains about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks.

In the past, rail cars full of radioactive waste were driven into the tunnels and then buried there, Bradbury said. Hanford has more than 9,000 employees.
Source: King 5

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