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Hole Causes Tunnel Collapse At Nuclear Site In Washington State

Hanford tunnel hole (
May 10, 2017

A “cave-in” yesterday caused a 20-by-20-foot section of an underground tunnel that stores radioactive waste to collapse at the Hanford Site in Washington, according to an update posted on Hanford’s website.

No contamination was detected after the cave-in, according to the report, and work has since begun to stabilize the tunnel and fill the hole. The tunnel, which is located next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility (PUREX), is in the center of the Hanford Site.

While no injuries were reported, workers in the vacinity of the cave-in were told to shelter in-place once the incident was discovered, according to the report.

The tunnel is hundreds of feet long and one of several underground tunnels at the site, which are generally covered with about eight feet of soil, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Hanford site is located about 200 miles southeast of Seattle, and it was where nuclear bombs were made after World War II.

This is not the first incident at Hanford to question worker safety and safe practices.

Last year, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the Energy Department claiming “vapors released from underground nuclear waste tanks posed a serious risk to workers,” according to a report in the Associated Press.

According to Ferguson, “hundreds of workers [since the early 1980s] have been exposed to vapors escaping from the tanks and that those breathing the vapors developed nosebleeds, chest and lung pain, headaches, coughing, sore throats, irritated eyes and difficulty breathing.”

Energy Department lawyers have said that no evidence has been brought forward to show workers have been affected by vapors, according to the AP.