In a statement, the Department of Energy said that "everyone has been accounted for and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release". An emergency has been declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.
Several counties adjacent to the Hanford Site - Yakima, Walla Walla, Grant and Adams counties - participated in a mid-morning conference call with the state Emergency Operations Center, Yakima interim EOC director Tony Miller said.
By early afternoon, eating and drinking were allowed, and some workers were being authorized to leave - but the areas closest to the tunnel remained in lockdown.
The Hanford facility itself has long used a robot arm for cleaning its waste storage tanks, and the mining of nuclear material from the ground was long ago handed off to remotely operated mining rigs. It said no radiation has been released.
According to Hanford Emergency Information, "Responders are on the scene and are reporting the soil has subsided (collapsed) in an area approximately 4 feet by 4 feet over one of the tunnels" next to PUREX, the Plutonium Uranium Extraction facility.
Workers evacuated or took cover and turned off ventilation systems after damage was discovered in the wall of a transport tunnel about 170 miles (270 km) east of Seattle, officials with the Department of Energy's Hanford Joint Information Center said.
No injuries have been reported.
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Officials detected no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.
Crews are now surveying the area near the PUREX tunnels for contamination. The site handled huge quantities of radioactive material, including the creation of more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel, the processing of more than 110,000 tons of fuel and the discharge of 53 million gallons of radioactive waste to underground tanks, according to the DOE's website.
Hanford became a focal point of U.S. nuclear efforts beginning in 1943, when aspects of the Manhattan Project were moved there, CNN reported.
Hanford began in World War II and procuded the plutonium used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in Japan.
Hanford, which is roughly half the size of Rhode Island, spent decades making plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.
The committee oversees the department's management of the cleanup efforts.