Tunnel with rail cars full of radioactive waste collapses in Washington state

Hanford Site tunnel collapse (Hanford Site Photo)
Hanford Site tunnel collapse (Hanford Site Photo)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A portion of a storage tunnel that contains rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday morning, forcing an emergency declaration at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state.

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

There were no workers inside the tunnel when it collapsed. But nearby Hanford workers were evacuated and others who were farther away were told to remain indoors, the U.S. Department of Energy said.

The accident occurred at a facility known as PUREX, located in the middle of the sprawling Hanford site, which is half the size of Rhode Island, Bradbury said.

Hanford is located near Richland, about 200 miles southeast of Seattle.

FILE--In this July 9, 2014, file photo, a sign warns of radioactivity near a wind direction flag indicator at the "C" tank farm on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council on Monday, June 20, 2016, issued a list of demands to the U.S. Department of Energy and its tank farm contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions. The council is an umbrella group for 15 unions with members doing Hanford work. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)
FILE–In this July 9, 2014, file photo, a sign warns of radioactivity near a wind direction flag indicator at the “C” tank farm on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council on Monday, June 20, 2016, issued a list of demands to the U.S. Department of Energy and its tank farm contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions. The council is an umbrella group for 15 unions with members doing Hanford work. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

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.

Bradbury said the collapse occurred at one of two rail tunnels under the PUREX site.

In the past, rail cars full of radioactive waste were driven into the tunnels and then buried there, he said.

Hanford has more than 9,000 employees.

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.

KXAN.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s