Workers repair hole in Washington nuclear site tunnel

Workers repair hole in Washington nuclear site tunnel
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Workers at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington have sealed a hole that developed in one of the facility's tunnels this week. 

Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryTexas Democratic megadonor dies at 46 Nuclear and coal are essential for reliable energy The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, whose agency oversees the site, said that “the system worked as it should and all are safe” at Hanford, where a 400-square-foot collapse occurred on Tuesday at a tunnel filled with radioactive waste. 

“This was accomplished swiftly and safely to help prevent any further complications,” Perry said in a statement Thursday. “Our next step is to identify and implement longer-term measures to further reduce risks."

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Wednesday said his state would issue an order requiring the federal government to figure out what caused Tuesday’s tunnel collapse, which happened near Hanford’s uranium extraction plant.

“I am extremely concerned about what happened yesterday, and how the Department of Energy can give us confidence that this will not happen again,”  he said at a press conference.  

“The efforts to provide a long-term storage of the sludge and liquid waste is a tremendous challenge and we’ve got to remain insistent that the federal government comply with its obligations to do that, and we will continue to do that.”

Inslee said the situation had “stabilized” by Wednesday and that officials would continue to monitor air quality at the site. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that there had been “no indication of worker exposure or an airborne radiological release.”

For decades between World War II and the end of the Cold War, Hanford produced some of the radioactive material necessary for the development of the United States' nuclear weapons.

Today, the facility houses 56 million gallons of chemical and nuclear waste, and the federal government is overseeing a clean-up effort there that could take decades.