Gizmodo | Tunnel Collapses at Nuclear Facility Once Called 'an Underground Chernobyl Waiting to Happen'
Managers at the Hanford Site in Washington State told workers to “take cover” Tuesday morning after a tunnel leading to a massive plutonium finishing plant collapsed. The emergency is especially worrisome, since Hanford is commonly known as “the most toxic place in America,” with one former governor calling it “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.” Worrisome might actually be an understatement. The Deparment of Energy declared a state of emergency at the site.
The accident occurred near the 200 East Area, the home of several solid waste sites. The tunnel that collapsed ran to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility (PUREX) facility and was filled with highly radioactive train cars that once carried spent fuel rods containing deeply dangerous plutonium and uranium from a reactor on the Columbia River to the processing facility. Those reactors once produced plutonium for America’s nuclear arsenal, though production ended in 1980. The cleanup process that followed has gone on for nearly 30 years.