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Workers at Hanford nuclear site have sealed off a large sinkhole

Collapsed tunnel sealed at U.S. nuclear site after accident, Chicago Tribune, Nicholas K. GeraniosAssociated Press, 11 May 17,  Workers at a Washington state nuclear site where a tunnel filled with nuclear waste in railroad cars partially collapsed have safely sealed off a large sinkhole that emerged as a result of the collapse, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday.

Authorities also revealed that the 400-square foot (37-square meter) sinkhole they filled with soil could have been there since last weekend before it was discovered Tuesday. That’s because the area around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste-filled tunnels is not observed every day by workers who patrol the site’s sprawling grounds………

Washington state officials on Wednesday demanded that the federal Energy Department immediately assess the integrity of all the Hanford tunnels.

“The infrastructure built to temporarily store radioactive waste is now more than a half-century old,” said Maia Bellon, director of the state Department of Ecology, which oversees and regulates the federal government’s Hanford cleanup.

The 360-foot long (110-meter) rail tunnel that collapsed was built in 1956 from timber, concrete and steel and covered with 8 feet (2.4 meters) of dirt. Eight flatbed railroad cars loaded with radioactive material were parked there in 1965.

A much larger nearby tunnel built in 1964 has 28 railroad cars with radioactive waste.

The Energy Department was warned in a 2015 report it commissioned that both tunnels were vulnerable to a collapse from an earthquake or deterioration of tunnel building materials caused by intense radiation, the report said.

The nearby Yakama Nation said it has warned about the safety of the tunnels for several years.

“No preventative action was taken,” the tribe said in a statement.

The tribe also said the tunnels should be cleaned of radioactive waste and radiation long before a deadline of 2042 set by a cleanup agreement between the federal and state governments.

The cleanup of Hanford’s waste is expected to last until 2060 and cost an additional $100 billion over the $19 billion already spent. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-nuclear-waste-tunnel-20170511-story.html

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May 12, 2017 - Posted by | incidents, USA

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