Tun­nel with nu­clear waste col­lapses; no leaks found

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - NI­CHOLAS K. GERANIOS

SPOKANE, WASH. — A por­tion of an un­der­ground tun­nel con­tain­ing rail cars full of ra­dioac­tive waste col­lapsed Tues­day at a sprawl­ing stor­age fa­cil­ity in a re­mote area of Wash­ing­ton state, forc­ing an evac­u­a­tion of some work­ers at the site that made plu­to­nium for nu­clear weapons for decades af­ter the Sec­ond World War.

Of­fi­cials de­tected no re­lease of ra­di­a­tion at the Han­ford Nu­clear Reser­va­tion and no work­ers were in­jured, said Randy Brad­bury, a spokesper­son for the Wash­ing­ton state Depart­ment of Ecol­ogy.

No work­ers were in­side the tun­nel when it col­lapsed, caus­ing soil on the sur­face above to sink up to 1.2 me­tres over a 37.1-square-metre area, of­fi­cials said.

The tun­nels are hun­dreds of feet long, with about 2.4 me­tres of soil cov­er­ing them, the U.S. Depart­ment of Energy said.

The cause of the col­lapse was not im­me­di­ately known. It was dis­cov­ered dur­ing a rou­tine in­spec­tion and oc­curred dur­ing a mas­sive cleanup that has been un­der­way since the 1980s and costs more than $2 bil­lion a year. The work is ex­pected to take un­til 2060 and cost more than $100 bil­lion.

Work­ers near the site of the col­lapse Tues­day were evac­u­ated and hun­dreds of oth­ers far­ther away were told to re­main in­doors for sev­eral hours, the agency said. Some of the 9,000 work­ers at the site were sent home early on a safe route.

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

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