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00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Hanford Contractors Plan To Fill Tunnel Collapse With Soil

Contractors are building a road to a collapsed train tunnel site at the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeast Washington state. Their goal is to keep any radioactive contamination from escaping the hole that was found Tuesday.

Workers have most of the road in place to get heavy equipment to the collapsed tunnels site. Mark Heeter with the U.S. Department of Energy said contractors will be using around 50 loads of clean fill dirt from a large dump site at Hanford to cover up the hole.

Thousands of workers were sent home after a portion of underground train tunnel collapsed Tuesday morning. Workers and investigators scrambled to study the problem and lock things up. Federal Department of Energy officials said no one was hurt and no contamination has spread out of the tunnel area.

The collapse is near PUREX, an old Cold War factory in the center of Hanford that was used to extract plutonium for use in nuclear bombs. The railways moved irradiated rods into the building for that extraction process and sent contaminated equipment away from the building shielded underground.

The tunnels were constructed of wood and concrete covered with soil about eight feet deep.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.