Emergency Declared at Nuclear Plant
by Tom Towers
Workers were evacuated after a tunnel collapse triggered an emergency alert at a nuclear plant in Washington.
Following the collapse this morning, workers were told to "secure ventilation in your building" and to "refrain from eating or drinking."
They were also instructed to "take cover" at the site located in Hanford, south-central Washington. Around 3,000 near the area were told to take shelter indoors.
The tunnel reportedly contains highly contaminated materials including nuclear waste trains that transport radioactive fuel rods.
Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology, told the Associated Press there had been no release of radiation and no workers were injured.
The site is a former plutonium production plant that was used to develop American nuclear weapons. Experts have called it "the most toxic place in America" and "an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen."
A source told King 5 that the vibration created by nearby roadwork crews could have caused the incident.
The Department of Energy issued this statement: "There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility.
"The tunnels contain contaminated materials."
A spokesman for the Washington Emergency Management Division said the state Emergency Operations Centre has been activated.
The Oregon Department of Energy, which is responsible for radiological safety, activated its emergency operations centre as well.
Former Energy Department official Robert Alvarez said the rail cars carry spent fuel from a reactor area along the river to the chemical processing facility. The dangerous plutonium and uranium is then extracted.
Hanford contains approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks.
Before the collapse underground tanks were reportedly leaking toxic and radioactive vapours that have been linked to cancer, brain damage and lung damage.
There were at least 61 workers exposed to the deadly vapours last year.
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