The Department of Energy has declared an emergency at the Hanford Nuclear site, about 150 miles southeast of Seattle. This morning, a tunnel containing rail cars with contaminated nuclear waste collapsed. The Department of Energy says a 20-foot-by-20-foot section of soil caved in where two underground tunnels meet next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility.
No injuries have been reported, nor has any radiation been detected. About 3,000 workers have been evacuated, steps were taken to block all ventilation systems, and the site is being tested.
According to the DOE, the collapse may have been caused by road crews doing construction above the tunnel location.
The Hanford site has been described as one of the most challenging nuclear waste clean up projects. The site at one time was one of the original Manhattan Project sites where nine nuclear reactors irradiated uranium fuel rods and created plutonium to be shipped to weapons factories. It contains about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks.
Editors' note: This story has been updated.