Hanford’s Radioactive Waste-Filled Tunnel 2 Set For Grouting After Comment And Study Process

The Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Southeast Washington. CREDIT: ANNA KING
Grout-filling work on Hanford's Tunnel 2 is set to begin soon. CREDIT: ANNA KING/N3

Another large tunnel of radioactive waste will be grouted closed at Hanford. That was the decision Friday by the Washington Department of Ecology.

The long process goes back to when another tunnel, simply called Tunnel 1, partially collapsed in May 2017.

This so-called Tunnel 2 is much larger than Tunnel 1. Both tunnels run underground near the moth-balled PUREX plant at Hanford.

Tunnel 2 is nearly 1,700 feet long and filled with 28 rail cars full of chemical and radioactive waste. It’s mostly large and failed equipment that was too radioactive to store elsewhere.

Stephanie Schlief is the project manager for the tunnels for the state Ecology Department. She says if there was a collapse of Tunnel 2, it’d be potentially bad.

“There’s always the potential for there to be an exposure scenario to either people or workers out there, that could possibly have a release of radioactive material,” Schlief said.

More than 5,000 truckloads of grout will be used to fill up Tunnel 2. Critics say that much grout means the two tunnels will likely become a permanent near-surface waste dump. But federal contractors say the grout and radioactive equipment could be removed in the future.

WATCH: How Hanford’s Tunnel 1 Failed

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