The Hanford Nuclear Reservation facility, once called “The Most Toxic Place in America” by NBC News is under lockdown today as a tunnel that housed rail cars full of highly radioactive waste has collapsed. Hanford sits near the banks of the Columbia River in southern Washington.

Workers near the tunnel collapse were evacuated immediately following the incident, while employees elsewhere at the facility were told to remain indoors and to “refrain from eating and drinking.” The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) activated the Hanford Emergency Operations Center and crews are working to determine the scale of the accident.

The Hanford facility websites explains: “There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point,” but crews are on site trying to determine whether the surrounding areas have seen any radioactive contamination.

Hanford, now closed, developed nuclear materials from the early days of the Manhattan Project, specializing in plutonium production. The site contains more than 150 buried nuclear waste storage tanks that have long been leaking radiation and toxic chemicals, and have been an ongoing cleanup concern for state, local, and federal governments for years. The DOE has noted that Hanford emits dangerously toxins into the atmosphere, and that the site “cannot effectively control” any threats to the environment posed by the stored waste.


The State of Washington and the Hanford plant claim that no radioactive waste has ever reached the Columbia, but the BBC has reported that hundreds of billions of gallons of contaminated water have been released into the ground near the site over the years.

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