The Latest: Workers building road to reach Hanford tunnel

Hanford nuclear site workers report possible chemical vapors

The Latest on a tunnel collapse at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state (all times local):

8:10 a.m.

Workers on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are making preparations to fill a 400-square foot (37 square meters) hole that has developed over a tunnel containing radioactive waste stored on the former plutonium production site.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday that workers were building a gravel road to reach the cave-in, located in the middle of the sprawling reservation in eastern Washington state.

The agency says the road will give workers a clear path to fill the collapsed portion of the tunnel, which was discovered Tuesday morning.

The Energy Department says no one was injured in the unoccupied tunnel, which has been sealed for decades, and no radioactive material escaped into the environment.

But non-essential workers at the Hanford site, which employs some 9,000 people, were told to stay home Wednesday.


12:30 a.m.

The collapse of an underground tunnel containing radioactive waste that forced workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to shelter in place is the latest incident to raise safety concerns at the sprawling site that made plutonium for nuclear bombs for decades after World War II.

Washington state Department of Ecology spokesman Randy Bradbury says officials detected no release of radiation Tuesday and no workers were injured.

Officials say no workers were inside the tunnel when it collapsed, causing soil on the surface above to sink 2 to 4 feet (half to 1.2 meters) over a 400 square foot (37 square meters).

Worker safety has long been a concern at Hanford, which is located about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southeast of Seattle.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit last fall against the Energy Department, contending vapors released from underground nuclear waste tanks posed a serious risk to workers.