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Tunnel collapse at Hanford Nuclear site, emergency declared via CBS News

SPOKANE, Wash. — An emergency was declared Tuesday at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington after a portion of a tunnel that contains rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.

The alert, which was later expanded to a site area emergency, was activated shortly before 8:30 a.m. at the Hanford Emergency Operations Center, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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The accident occurred at a facility known as PUREX, located in the middle of the sprawling Hanford site, which is half the size of Rhode Island. The closed PUREX plant was part of the nation’s nuclear weapons production complex.

Authorities say the collapse took place within one of two rail tunnels under the PUREX site, which contains contaminated materials. One tunnel is about 360 feet long, and the other spans approximately 1,700 feet. The partial collapse, which covered about 400 square feet, took place in an area where the two tunnels join together. The incident caused the soil above the tunnel to sink between 2 and 4 feet.

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