An emergency was declared yesterday, Tuesday, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Eastern Washington State after the roof of an old abandoned tunnel, built in 1956, collapsed. The tunnel had been used to store radiologically-contaminated equipment and materials used in the Cold War from 1956 to 1988.
Figure Caption: The Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant (PUREX plant) at DOE’s Hanford Site in Washington State, where a collapse in Tunnel 1 triggered an emergency response. No contamination was released so far, and none is likely.
An aerial survey mid-morning on Tuesday showed an opening about 20 feet by 20 feet into the tunnel. Technically, the breach of the tunnel could expose some of the radioactive material in the tunnel to the atmosphere.
However, no contamination was released so far, and none is likely. No workers were injured and everyone has been accounted for. Radiological surveys are continuing.
On the other hand, the tunnel collapse triggered an emergency response on site and in the nearby community, as it’s supposed to do.
DOE Secretary Perry said the Department of Energy is closely following the situation. DOE quickly notified Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, who also got a call from the White House.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said she sent her “deepest appreciation to the first responders who are on the scene and all those who are working very hard to figure out the situation on the ground.”
In fact, the incident made for an excellent spur-of-the-moment safety drill for the entire region, both on the Hanford Site itself, as well as in the nearby towns. Everything seems to have gone as planned, and everyone should get an A+.
As discussed in the excellent reporting by the local newspaper, the Tri-City Herald, the Hanford Emergency Center was activated at 8:26 AM and the Hanford Fire Department was quickly on scene. Radiological surveys began immediately.
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