Meetings Seek Public Comment On Hanford Tunnel Filled With Radioactive Waste

Preparations are nearly complete to begin making grout near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility or PUREX Tunnel 2. CREDIT: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
Preparations are nearly complete to begin making grout near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility or PUREX Tunnel 2. CREDIT: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

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Last spring, a portion of a storage tunnel full of radioactive waste caved in at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. That tunnel was sealed up with layers of grout quickly.

Now, officials want to do much the same with another, larger tunnel of waste near the first.

Tunnel 2 is more than 1,600 long and holds 28 rail cars full of radioactive waste. It’s mostly large pieces of equipment that were too big and cumbersome to haul and bury elsewhere.

Recently, several mayors in the Tri-Cities publicly called for Tunnel 2 to be filled in immediately. They’re worried a collapse of the tunnel could throw up a plume of dust exposing workers or the public.

Washington Department of Ecology officials say they’re concerned too, but they want the public to have time to comment, since grouting is such a major decision.

Some Hanford watchdogs say grouting would create a difficult-to-remove, shallow radioactive waste dump.

State officials received new structural information from the federal government late last week, that might speed up the timeline for starting the grouting work.

And the U.S. Department of Energy has already begun preparations of the infrastructure needed to grout the tunnel.

PUBLIC MEETINGS: 
There are two public meetings about Hanford’s Tunnel 2:
– Monday, Aug. 27, 5:30 p.m. at the Richland Public Library.
– Wednesday, Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m. at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle.

Clarification: The headline of this story has been updated to say “radioactive” instead of “nuclear” waste.

Copyright 2018 Northwest News Network

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File photo of Hanford's PUREX plant. COURTESY MICHELE GERBER/N3

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