Tunnel collapse being filled at Hanford Purex Plant (KNDU-TV)

Many Hanford workers, including those on the tank farms (one of our older daughters works there) had their work cancelled Wednesday, while crews were busy pouring load after load of dirt and fill into a breach in one of the contaminated Purex Plant tunnels.

According to our news partner, KNDU-TV, over 50 loads of heavy dirt is being dumped into the area where low level readings of radiation were found Tuesday.

The radiation began to be measured after crews noticed depressions in the ground, and officials said one of the two 100 foot long underground railroad tunnels at the 900 foot long dormant plant had collapsed.

The Purex Plant closed in 1988. It was used to remove plutonium and other elements from reactor fuel rods, which were then used for nuclear weapons. In the 1990's as part of cleanup efforts, many rail cars loaded with contaminated materials and waste were parked in the underground tunnels and buried under tons of dirt and rock.

The tunnels were originally used to shuttle the fuel rods in and out of the plant. The tunnels are considered a "10" on a scale of 1-10 for dangerous radioactivity. In fact, previously, DOE officials said it was too dangerous to excavate and remove the cars and waste as part of the cleanup project, so they were buried.

Workers are wearing safety gear and respirators during the work.

One of the tunnels collapsed, and fears were that the radioactive materials would be exposed to the air.  Some reports indicate cement is being used as well, but that cannot be confirmed.

Most non-essential workers at the area did not come to work today.  More news expected soon.