Benton County, WA - An emergency has been declared after a tunnel collapse at the Hanford plutonium uranium extraction plant in Washington state.
The U.S. Department of Energy activated the emergency operations center at 8:26 AM on Tuesday. The collapsed tunnel was full of highly contaminated materials, such as hot radioactive trains that transport fuel rods.
There is a visible hole where the ground collapse above the tunnel site, and there are concerned about the radiation leaking out.
All workers have been advised to take cover, "secure ventilation in your building" and "refrain from eating or drinking," according to King 5.
First responders are standing by nearby, but they are holding back until they are told if the radiation levels are safe.
A crew doing road work nearby may have created enough vibration to cause the tunnel collapse.
The Hanford plant was originally established as part of the Manhattan Project and home of the first full-scale plutonium production reactor. The plant was expanded to nine nuclear reactors during the cold war and produced plutonium for more than 60,000 nuclear weapons. Early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were grossly inadequate and the site now contains two thirds for the nation's high-level radioactive waste, and is the most contaminated site in the United States.
UPDATE: No workers were injured. DOE said, "There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point,” so basically don't panic yet. Workers are still not getting close enough to confirm a leak.
UPDATE: The "take cover order" was just expanded to the entire site area, according to Suzannah Frame with King 5.
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