Energy chief says hole has been filled at nuclear waste site

Employees worked at the site overnight, preparing to fill the hole inside the collapsed plutonium-uranium extraction (PUREX) tunnel, spokesman Destry Henderson said. The tunnel - which is made of wood and concrete and covered in 8 feet of soil - was constructed during the Cold War to hold rail cars loaded with equipment that had been contaminated in the process of plutonium production.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the safety of Hanford's 9,000 employees is the top priority. He said workers had laid down gravel to support heavy equipment that would be used "to begin placing soil slowly and methodically in the caved-in portion of that tunnel" on Wednesday.

Governor Inslee says the state plans to issue an order requiring the federal government to determine the cause of a tunnel collapse at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

This image provided by the U.S. Department of Energy shows a 20-foot by 20-foot hole in the roof of a storage tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

Hanford made most of the plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during the war. A portion of an underground tunnel containing rail cars filled with radioactive waste c. The remaining cleanup is expected to cost almost $108 billion by the time it is completed in 2060.

Workers north of the Wye Barricade, a security checkpoint at the site, were told not to report to work on Wednesday if they were not essential to safety or security.

The cause of the partial collapse of the tunnel, which was built in 1956, has not been determined.

The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the USA government on the Columbia River.

Hanford is now the biggest reservoir of radioactive defense waste which must be cleaned.


Andreas Christen, an associate professor in UBC's micrometeorology research group, said a cave-in event like this poses little risk to British Columbians, or even those near the site in Washington. Non-essential workers who live north of the site's Wye Barricade entrance were asked to stay home Wednesday.

Workers in the area are wearing protective suits and breathing masks, the department said, and there is air monitoring in the area.

It has been sealed since the mid-1990s, according to the department of energy.

Ecology is requiring the federal Department of Energy, through an enforcement order, to immediately assess the integrity of the tunnels, one of which partially collapsed on Tuesday, and take swift corrective action.

"No action is required for residents of Benton and Franklin counties", the department said.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been briefed on the situation was told the agency will continue to monitor the situation. "After extensive testing the site remains confident at this point that there has been no indication of worker exposure or an airborne radiological release".

The Hanford site was built during World War II and made plutonium for most of the US nuclear arsenal, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of the war.

The committee oversees the department's management of the cleanup efforts.


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