A tunnel containing radioactive waste collapsed at the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear site in Washington state Tuesday morning, forcing personnel to evacuate.
Hundreds of workers were instructed to “take cover” after the collapse, and others were evacuated. Employees were told to “secure ventilation” in their buildings and “refrain from eating or drinking,” according to a local television station. A local reporter tweeted that the sites management had called the incident “a crisis.”
A spokesperson for the Washington state Department of Ecology told the Associated Press there’s no evidence any radiation was released.
The Hanford site began operating in 1943 to produce plutonium for the Manhattan Project. The site’s nine reactors generated 56 million gallons of radioactive waste before being shut down in 1987. A November 2016 NBC News segment called the facility “the most toxic place in America.”
Roughly $19 billion has been spent managing the site since 1989 but “to date, no waste has been treated,” according to a May 2015 Government Accountability Office report. Numerous design and construction flaws required expensive and lengthy corrections, causing repeated increases in budget and time frames, according to the GAO.
The delays could result in a Fukushima-like release of radiation a watchdog group previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The most recent measurement of one underground high-level waste tank showed a high risk of explosion or fire at the site. Such an explosion could spread radioactive material across Washington state and into Oregon, Idaho, and possibly even Utah and Canada.
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