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A tiny robot is here to help after emergency declared at U.S. nuclear waste site

America the contaminated .

Image: Jeff T. Green/ Getty Images

A tiny robot is roving around a massive U.S. nuclear waste site to gather critical tests of potential air and water pollution after an emergency was declared Tuesday.

The machine was deployed after a passageway that stores rail autoes fitted with radioactive waste partly collapsed at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

The mishap raised frights of a radioactivity leak at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, though officials said there was no actual show of a freeing of plutonium radioactivity as of 2:20 p.m. PDT.

The air- and soil-sampling robot is monitoring for any changes on the scene.

No laborers were injured as a result of Tuesday’s cave-in, officials said.

The robot isn’t the only machine to have worked on the 500 -square-mile site. A large robotic limb called the Mobile Arm Retrieval System( MARS) has been used in the past to scoop the thousands of gallons of radioactive waste from Hanford’s underground storage tanks.

Hanford, which sits nearly 200 miles southeast of Seattle, was established by the Manhattan Project during World War II to attain plutonium for atomic weapon, includes the atom bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.

The site stopped developing plutonium in the late 1980 s, and soon after, the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and Washington state reached a landmark agreement to clean up the site.

Yet decades later, it remains a giant nuclear scab on the landscape. The area contains about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, most of which are stored in nearly 180 underground tanks.

Image: department of energy

Last fall, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a litigation against the Energy Department and its contractor that mentions vapors escaping from nuclear waste storage tanks post a serious health risks to Hanford laborers, including chest and lung sorenes, headaches, and difficulty breathing. The Energy Department has said there is no evidence showing laborers have been harmed by vapors.

Tuesday’s accident happened atop one of two rail passageways near the site’s Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant( PUREX ), which sits in the middle of the Hanford site. The passageways are each the thousands of feet long, with about eight feet of clay covering them. The Energy Department replied two to four feet of clay collapsed over a 400 -square-foot-area of one of the tunnels.

The mishap be the first time that real leadership experiment for Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was confirmed to that stance in early March.

During a verification hearing in January, the former Texas governor and Dancing with the Stars contestant told the U.S. Senate he would prioritize cleanup great efforts to Hanford, which he called “one of the most dangerous, polluted sites we have in the country.”

The Energy Department in recent years has expended about$ 2 billion a year on cleanup work. A complete cleanup of the nuclear waste site could expenditure $107 billion and take until 2060 to complete, according to the latest government estimate.

Associated Press lent reporting .

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