Hundreds take cover amid nuclear scare

Tuesday

The decommissioned nuclear reactor in 2011 during the clean-up operations at the Western hemisphere’s most contaminated nuclear site in Hanford, Washington. Hundreds of workers at the nuclear site were ordered to take cover after a tunnel filled with contaminated material collapsed near the facility. Picture: AFP

HUNDREDS of workers at a nuclear site in the US state of Washington were ordered to take cover after a tunnel filled with contaminated material collapsed near the facility, federal officials said.

Employees at the Hanford Site plant, located about 275 kilometres southeast of downtown Seattle, were sent an alert by management in early morning telling them to “secure ventilation” and refrain from “eating or drinking.”

The Hanford nuclear site was used to produce plutonium for the bomb that brought an end to World War II.

Its last reactor closed down in 1987 but millions of gallons of leftover waste are contained in tanks at the site.

A sign warning visitors of searches for prohibited materials as they near the Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington. Picture: AFP

A sign warning visitors of searches for prohibited materials as they near the Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

A statement by the US Department of Energy said personnel at the facility were evacuated and workers in potentially affected areas had gone indoors.

“There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility,” the statement said. “The tunnels contain contaminated materials.” It said it had activated an emergency operation at the plant at 8:26am (1:26am), shortly after an alert was declared.

There were no reports of injury and officials at the plant could not be immediately reached for comment.

There was speculation that road work near the tunnel caused it to collapse.

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