A large portion of a storage tunnel that contains train carriages full of radioactive waste has collapsed in the US state of Washington, according to local news sources.
After the accident on Tuesday morning, hundreds of workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation were evacuated and others who were farther away were told to remain indoors, reports said.
An emergency was declaration at the nuclear waste site in southeastern Washington state which for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons. The US Department of Energy said it has activated its emergency operations protocol in the area.
“There are concerns about subsidence in the soil covering railroad tunnels near a former chemical processing facility. The tunnels contain contaminated materials,” Energy Department officials in Hanford said in a statement.
However, Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology, claimed that officials did not detect any release of radiation. There were no workers inside the tunnel when the accident happened.
The sprawling site in Hanford for decades produced plutonium for nuclear weapons and is now the largest depository of radioactive waste that must be cleaned. It contains about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste.
Plutonium production ended at the site in 1980 and the cleanup program began in 1989.
Cleaning up radioactive materials has been a problem for years at the site in Hanford, which is a small agricultural community in Washington, about 200 miles southeast of Seattle.