Crews repair collapsed tunnel at Hanford

KREM 2's Taylor Viydo reports on the state's ongoing concerns about the Hanford Site.

HANFORD, Wash. – Crews at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation started to repair part of a tunnel containing dangerous nuclear waste that collapsed on Tuesday.

Workers are using around 50 truckloads of soil to fill a section of the tunnel that failed. Hanford leaders continue to say that no contamination at the site was reported and that no one was hurt. But that does not mean concerns have ended.

Governor Jay Inslee said that he is extremely concerned about how the tunnel collapse happened. He said the state is working on an order that will require the federal government to determine just that. Meanwhile, Hanford employees continued to be told to stay home on Wednesday.

Overnight, crews created a makeshift gravel road to give workers better access to the area where the collapse occurred.  Early Wednesday, a video was released by the Department of Energy that showed workers using soil to fill the collapsed section.

Around 50 truckloads of dirt will be used once everything is said and done, the department said. Due to danger of what’s stored in the tunnel, the majority of Hanford employees were told to stay home on Wednesday. That order will remain in effect until Wednesday evening for non-essential overnight worker too.

The collapse was discovered on Tuesday by workers doing routine maintenance. The tunnel is located at the site of a plutonium and uranium extraction plant. Inside the tunnel are railcars that contain dangerous radioactive equipment used during the Cold War.

As of 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the Department of Energy was still reporting that no employees were injured and that no contamination was detected because of the collapse. That is not to say fears of what could happen in the future have been erased.

“But I am extremely concerned about what happened yesterday,” Governor Jay Inslee said.

Governor Inslee said a planned state enforcement order would require the U.S. Department of Energy to determine the cause of the collapse and assess if any other tunnels are at risk of failing as well.

“If you have collapsing tunnels that could expose workers, this is a very dramatic concern that we have,” Governor Inslee said.

As for what the next step is once the soil is placed over the collapse, it is too early to tell. A Hanford spokesman said this afternoon that they are still in an emergency state and are focused primarily on filling the collapsed portion of the tunnel.

Both the Department of Energy and state authorities said they will continue to monitor air quality in the area. As for how day-shift employees will be affected on Thursday, Hanford leaders said they will not make that decision until sometime early Thursday morning. 

© 2017 KREM-TV


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