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Tunnel at Hanford plutonium plant in Washington collapses

Staff Writer |
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington declared an emergency Tuesday after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.

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No workers were in the tunnel but those at the site were evacuated. No actions is required for residents of Benton and Franklin counties, the U.S. Department of Energy said in an advisory.

A KING-TV source said that crews working nearby may have created enough vibration to cause the collapse.

Personnel were told to "secure ventilation in your building" and "refrain from eating or drinking."

At 8:26 a.m., the U.S. Department of Energy's Richlands Operations Office activated the emergency operations center at Hanford.

"There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility," the alert said. "The tunnels contain contaminated materials."

The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the U.S. government on the Columbia River.

From World War II through the Cold War, Hanford, a 580-square-mile site in Eastern Washington, near Richland, Wash., produced plutonium, including material used in the first nuclear bomb.

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