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Part of nuclear waste site collapses in Washington state

Incident at Hanford

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.
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.

source: AP

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 17, 2011 shows a sign warning visitors of searches for prohibited materials as they near the Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington.  Hundreds of workers at the nuclear site were ordered to take cover on May 9, 2017, after a tunnel filled with contaminated material collapsed near the facility, federal officials said. Employees at the Hanford Site plant, located about 170 miles (275 kilometers) southeast of downtown Seattle, were sent an alert by management in early morning telling them to "secure ventilation" and refrain from "eating or drinking."  / AFP PHOTO / SHAUN TANDON

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 21, 2011 shows a decommissioned nuclear reactor during the cleanup operations at the Western hemisphere's most contaminated nuclear site in Hanford, Washington.  Hundreds of workers at the nuclear site were ordered to take cover on May 9, 2017, after a tunnel filled with contaminated material collapsed near the facility, federal officials said. Employees at the Hanford Site plant, located about 170 miles (275 kilometers) southeast of downtown Seattle, were sent an alert by management in early morning telling them to "secure ventilation" and refrain from "eating or drinking."  / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON