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Hanford tunnel collapses onto rail cars storing radioactive wastes

A tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State collapsed today on top of railcars stored there that contain “mixed” radioactive waste, an accident that local watchdog group, Hanford Challenge, describes as a “crisis.”

The tunnel is located next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX, and contains substances classified as “dangerous waste.” The collapse prompted an initial evacuation of workers in the area that then spread to a “take cover” order for the entire site.

The already embattled Hanford site was originally part of the Manhattan Project, and a major supplier of military plutonium. It houses 177 storage tanks containing liquid radioactive sludges, some of which have been leaking radioactive effluent that could eventually threaten the Columbia River. Cleanup at the site did not begin until 1989.

The Hanford tunnel collapse may have been caused by soil subsidence due to vibrations from nearby road works.

"The current unfolding crisis at Hanford, the bursting barrel at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant  (WIPP) in New Mexico in 2014, and the exploding radioactive waste dump in Beatty, Nevada in 2015, show that radioactive waste management is out of control," said Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear.

”That’s why the Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada, the Canadian dump targeted at the Great Lakes shore, and the parking lot dumps in Texas and New Mexico must be blocked, to prevent future disasters," Kamps added.

Read and share the full Beyond Nuclear press release.