Tunnel at plutonium uranium extraction plant collapses in Hanford

Tunnel at plutonium uranium extraction plant collapses in Hanford


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Hundreds of workers were in “take cover” position after a tunnel in a plutonium uranium extraction (PUREX) plant collapsed at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation early Tuesday morning.

The AP reports no workers were in the tunnel at the time of collapse. Workers at the site have now been evacuated. Workers farther away were told to remain indoors. 

>>Related: Raw video from Hanford worker




“I would underscore this is confined to a small area of the Hanford site,” Destry Henderson, deputy news manager for the Hanford Joint Information Center, told NBC News. “There are no reports of injuries, no reports of a radiological release.”

The tunnel was full of highly contaminated materials such as hot radioactive trains that transport fuel rods. It connects to a PUREX (plutonium uranium extraction) building.

>>Related: Raw video from inside Hanford 




“The facility does have radiological contamination right now but there is no indication of a radiological release,” Henderson said.

A manager sent a message to all personnel telling them to “secure ventilation in your building” and “refrain from eating or drinking.”

Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology, told the AP there apparently has been no release of radiation and no workers were injured. 

A source reported to Susannah Frame at 10:35 that “take cover” status has been expanded to the entire site. 

The source also said that crews doing road work nearby may have created enough vibration to cause the collapse, and that Vit Plant employees are in cover mode as well.

The AP reports “there are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels.”


Robots are being used to determine possible air contamination.

Responding agencies include the U.S. Department of Energy; Richland, West Richland, and Kennewick city fire and police; Benton, Franklin, and Grant County fire and police officials; Washington state patrol; and Oregon and Washington state officials.

The Statesman Journal reports the Oregon Department of Energy has activated its emergency operation center in response to the Hanford emergency, which is 35 miles away from Oregon.

KING 5 Investigative Reporter Susannah Frame covering this story. Follow her online at @SFrameK5 for the latest.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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