A 20-foot section of tunnel holding contaminated materials collapsed on Tuesday, May 9 at the Hanford Site, a decommissioned nuclear plant in Washington state.
The dark area underneath the tall orange flag is the collapse site – a hole left by the tunnel collapse. pic.twitter.com/7fvqsRimhC
— Susannah Frame (@SFrameK5) May 9, 2017
Hanford Site is a decommissioned nuclear production complex run by the US federal government on the Columbia River. During the Cold War the site was used to run nine nuclear reactors and five plutonium processing complexes.
Hanford’s emergency operations center reported the collapse occurred over a tunnel next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility. The tunnel is used to store and move radioactive materials and is hundreds of feet in length. About eight feet of soil typically covers the tunnel.
Responders are on the scene and are reporting the soil has subsided in an area approximately 20 feet by 20 feet over one of the tunnels next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX. There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point.
Hanford Emergency Operations Center
— Hanford Site (@HanfordSite) May 9, 2017
KING news reports road work in the area could have contributed to the collapse. KING reporter Susanna Frame said the collapse was connected to the plutonium uranium extraction plant. Initial reports said it was at the plutonium finishing plant.
The Department of Energy has activated the Hanford Emergency Operations Center.
— Kelly Koopmans (@KellyKOMO4) May 9, 2017
Hanford was put onto the National Priorities List in 1988 and designated a hazardous waste site, making the location eligible for federal funding under the Superfund program.
The reactors were decommissioned after the Cold War, and the Department of Energy continues to work to clean up the site.
Previous alerts have been issued at Hanford, including last April when a tank of radioactive sludge sprung a leak.