Home Emergency Management News Washington State Nuclear Site Evacuated after Tunnel Collapse

Washington State Nuclear Site Evacuated after Tunnel Collapse


By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

Workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Richland, Washington, were evacuated Tuesday, after the Department of Energy issued an alert emergency , the Seattle Times reported. Nearby residents were told to stay indoors.

Officials detected no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Ecology. No workers were in the tunnel when it collapsed.

In declaring the alert, the Department of Energy said a portion of a storage tunnel that contains rail cars full of radioactive waste had collapsed.

“There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility,” the Energy Department said. “The tunnels contain contaminated materials.” The tunnels are under about eight feet of soil.

The Energy Department opened an emergency operations center at the site just before 8:30 a.m. and the Hanford Fire Department was on the scene.

Just after 10 a.m., the Energy Department announced that a four-foot square area over one of the tunnels had “subsided” by about two to four feet. The collapse was originally discovered during a routine inspection by workers.

“Responders are getting closer to the area where the soil has subsided for further visual inspection,” the department said.

A spokeswoman with the Hanford Joint Information Center said there was no evidence of a radioactive release. The incident occurred in the 200 East PUREX area of the site, she told the Times.

PUREX refers to the site’s Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant, which extends 40 feet below ground. This massive facility, more than three football fields in length and more than six stories tall, was used to recover plutonium from irradiated fuel rods.

The building has been vacant for nearly 20 years but remains highly contaminated.

About the Author

David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. David’s 2015 book, “The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation’s Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever,” was recently published in paperback by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Glynn Cosker Glynn Cosker is the Managing Editor of EDM Digest. Glynn has more than 20 years of writing experience, and he’s the Managing Editor of EDM Digest's sister blog site: In Homeland Security. Born and raised in the U.K., he began his career in government and spent 12 years working in the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Washington – attaining the rank of Vice Consul in the late 1990s. Glynn and his family live in New England.