(By Staff Reports/Chewelah Independent)
Nuclear waste storage tunnel hole plugged with dirt…
The Associated Press is reporting that a hole discovered on top of a nuclear waste storage tunnel has been plugged with 53 truckloads of dirt. The tunnel collapse had created a 400-square foot partial collapse.
“I am pleased to announce that our dedicated and talented team of experts at the Department of Energy’s Hanford site have completed filling in the hole discovered at the PUREX tunnel,” said Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “This was accomplished swiftly and safely to help prevent any further complications. Our next step is to identify and implement longer-term measures to further reduce risks. This week’s incident is a reminder that the men and women who work for the Department of Energy do incredible work, but that work does not come without risk. Thankfully, the system worked as it should and all are safe. As Secretary, the safety of our workforce, the communities and tribal nations that surround our sites, and the environment is my highest priority.”
A partial collapse of a 20-foot section of tunnel containing rail cars full of radioactive waste caused 3,000 employees of the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site to seek shelter indoors on Tuesday, May 9, the Spokesman-Review reported. No radiation leak has been detected and no release of contamination has been determined according to a Hanford Site press release release.
The collapse caused soil on the surface to sink two-to-four feet over 400-square feet. It was discovered during routine inspections.
The cave-in happened where two tunnel join together east of the site’s PUREX (Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility) facility and they were used beginning in the 1950s to store contaminated equipment backed into tunnels on rail cars. The cause of the collapse has not been determined.
Non-essential employees in the vicinity of the collapse were released early on Tuesday, while non-essential swing shift employees were asked not to come to work.
The site is 19 miles from North Richland and seven miles from the Columbia River.
The railcars had material so radioactive that several empty cars were placed between the railcar holding waste and the locomotive in an effort to shield the driver from radiation. The tunnel walls are held up by 14-inch pressure-treated Douglas fir timbers.
Massive cleanup efforts have been occuring at Hanford since the 1980s and costs more than $2 billion a year. The work is expected to continue until 2060 and cost more than $100 billion, the AP reports.