Around 9,000 people work at Hanford.
Tom Carpenter, the executive director with watchdog organization Hanford Challenge who has spoken with workers at the site since the incident, called the tunnel collapse worrisome and said the evacuation was the correct call.
The department said personnel at the facility were evacuated and workers in potentially affected areas had gone indoors.
The Department of Energy says a 20 foot by 20 foot section of soil has sunk unusually low over a tunnel next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility. The tunnels are described as being hundreds of feet long and the collapse was spotted by workers doing routine surveillance.
Hanford is located near Richland, about 200 miles southeast of Seattle.
Reports are not now indicating any release of radioactivity. The breached tunnel was used to "bury radioactive waste from the production of plutonium", Inslee said. Two employees of a contracting firm working on site came forward with concerns about the safety of a waste treatment plant under construction.
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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit last fall against the Energy Department and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, contending vapors released from underground nuclear waste tanks posed a serious risk to workers.
[Alvarez] said that the rail cars carry spent fuel from a reactor area along the river to the chemical processing facility, which then extracts unsafe plutonium and uranium.
Hours after authorities scrambled to respond, authorities determined there is no initial evidence that workers have been exposed to radiation or that there has been an "airborne radiological release".
The PUREX building is the length of three football fields and was used to recover plutonium from irradiated fuel rods. But officials say no radiation was released and no workers were hurt. "My office is in close communication with these agencies and directly with Department of Energy headquarters in D.C. We will continue to monitor this situation and assist the federal government in its response".
The senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he is requesting that the Energy Department brief the committee on the root cause of the collapse. 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.
The committee oversees the department's management of the cleanup efforts.