There’s an ongoing emergency at the largest nuclear waste storage site in the U.S.
Around 8:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday, 400 square feet of soil caved in at the juncture of two several hundred foot–long tunnels housing radioactive material at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington.
The tunnels are located next to the long-defunct plutonium uranium extraction facility, called PUREX. The Hanford Emergency Information website reports there’s no sign of contaminant release.
Between 8:30 and noon, an alert cautioning people within PUREX facility boundary to evacuate expanded to a site-wide state of emergency, with all employees instructed to shelter in place, a spokesperson for Hanford’s Emergency Operation Center said.
“All employees are accounted for, no injuries, and no evidence of a radiological release,” he explained in a Facebook Live video.
Hanford was a plutonium-enrichment site opened in World War II as part of the effort to build an atom bomb. It was decommissioned 30 years ago, and nuclear waste cleanup started two years later. Today, more than 9,000 people work at the site, which is 200 miles southeast of Seattle and just over 50 miles due east of the Yakima Indian Reservation.
“This is a serious situation, and ensuring the safety of the workers and the community is the top priority,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a statement.
We’ll update this post with new information as it’s available.