Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses; no leaks found
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.”