Collapsed tunnel sealed at US nuclear site after accident

There has been no radiological contamination reported from the Tuesday collapse, U.S. Department of Energy officials said Wednesday. The tunnel - which is made of wood and concrete and covered in 8 feet of soil - was constructed during the Cold War to hold rail cars loaded with equipment that had been contaminated in the process of plutonium production. Workers are also monitoring the air in the vicinity, using robots to detect any contamination.

Although President Donald Trump's administration has vowed to slash the budgets of most Energy Department programs, the administration does not plan to skimp on the department's program in charge of the Hanford cleanup and of other nuclear sites.

Broadcastify provided the following audio from an emergency dispatch shortly after the incident: "Dirt collapsed into the tunnel". Department of Energy officials.

An emergency has been declared at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state after a portion of a tunnel that that contains rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed. Now, there is a tunnel collapse in the region which is full of contaminated particles, which varies from radioactive train cars to other decommissioned transported fuel rods and will become very risky if it is not being contaminated as fast as possible.

Crews working at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation following a tunnel collapse on Tue., May 9, 2017.

Radiation levels within the tunnels were lethal within an hour, according to Heart of America NW, another Hanford watchdog group.

Officials say no workers were inside the tunnel when it collapsed, causing soil on the surface above to sink 2 to 4 feet (half to 1.2 meters) over a 400 square foot (37 square meters).

Hanford for decades made plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.

"It's like having Fukushima sitting in your backyard ready to go off", said state Rep. Gerry Pollet, a Democrat who represents a district in King County that includes Seattle.

A "60 Minutes" report in 2006 uncovered several mind-boggling mistakes made at the site, including a decision to construct a pre-treatment facility for radioactive waste that wasn't created to withstand an quake.

When the hole was discovered Tuesday, much of the vast Hanford site was put on lockdown. The site - with nine nuclear reactors and associated processing facilities - is now managed by the DOE's Richland Operations Office, which is responsible for the cleanup of all remaining waste streams at the site.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit last fall against the Energy Department, contending vapors released from underground nuclear waste tanks posed a serious risk to workers.

"I am extremely concerned about what happened yesterday, and how the Department of Energy can give us confidence that this will not happen again", Gov. Inslee said during a press briefing Wednesday.

The US Department of Energy downplayed the incident at the time saying the leak had been "anticipated" amid ongoing efforts to empty the tank.

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