Hanford, WA — (RT) The US Department of Energy has declared an emergency at the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste storage site, after a tunnel used to store contaminated materials caved in.

About 3,000 workers have taken cover at the 200 East Area of the sprawling complex, local media reported. By 10:30 am local time, the “take cover” orders have been expanded to the entire site, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.

A portion of a tunnel near the plutonium-uranium extraction plant (PUREX) collapsed early Tuesday morning local time, most likely from vibrations produced by nearby road work, KING-TV reported.

Initial reports spoke of a 4-foot (1.2 meter) hole, which was later expanded to 20 feet (6 meters) across.

The tunnel was used to store highly radioactive materials and equipment, such as trains used to transport nuclear fuel rods.



The PUREX facility was built in the 1950s and used until 1988 to extract plutonium from around 70,000 fuel rods in total. The building has been vacant for nearly twenty years and “remains highly contaminated,”according to the Hanford website. Rail cars used to transport the fuel rods from the nuclear reactors to the processing facility are buried inside the nearby tunnels.


No workers were injured in the collapse, and officials have detected no release of radiation, Washington state Department of Ecology spokesman Randy Bradbury told AP.

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Workers at the complex have been ordered to stay indoors and refrain from eating and drinking, according to text alerts seen by local media. Emergency crews are organizing the evacuation.


Emergency measures were put in place due to “concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels,” says a statement posted on the Hanford facility website.

Residents of the nearby Benton and Franklin counties do not need to take any action, the facility said.



Hanford is located on the Columbia River in eastern Washington, near the border with Oregon. Built during World War Two as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the nuclear bomb, it still contains roughly 53 million gallons – over 2,600 rail cars – worth of high-level nuclear waste, left from the production of plutonium for the US nuclear weapons program.

A number of current and former Hanford workers suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic waste leaks and “burps” of radiation at the complex, RT America reported in April 2016.



    Whg don’t they build those things far underground. If something goes wrong all they need do is fill in the hole.

    • permalink

      From the explanation in the article that train has nt moved for 20 years. Seems it would be quite easy to “fill in the hole” and call it a good day…

      • Steve Rusk

        Problem is this stuff will continue to haunt future generations for thousands of years to come. As the structures decompose over the centuries these toxic residues will be dispersed into the environment and this is not stuff you want to spread around. As it breaks down It can get into the water table and be dispersed by plants and wild life. And that’s if it’s left alone, in the future as public memory fades scrappers might just come in and cut it all up for recycling, it’s been done before.

  • The Cat’s Vagina

    For once, it doesn’t quite suck to live in Texas!

  • John C Carleton

    How about stop building nuclear reactors, war heads. That will not clean up the mess already done, but personally don’t see the intelligence in keeping producing waste that no one knows how to deal with.

  • Jerry Hatfield

    Yeah, this is a lot worse than they’re letting on.

  • cold340t

    Wow! Duck and cover is still the answer? I guess radiation can be stopped by the front/back doors being locked. Yep, good old duck and cover, still a reliable way to prevent radiation exposure! We’ve come so far since the 50’s.