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Disasters and Accidents
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.

Grout It: Hanford Leaders Have Plan For Collapsed Tunnel?????

hanford_tunnel.jpg
U.S. Department of Energy
File photo of a tunnel at the Hanford nuclear site that partially collapsed on May 9.

Leaders and technical experts at the Hanford nuclear site have decided to fill a tunnel that partially collapsed last month with grout. That tunnel is full of radioactive waste.

It will take hundreds of truckloads of grout to fill the tunnel which measures more than 300-feet long, 19-feet wide and 22-feet high.??

The grouting and curing will be done in stages. The idea is to stabilize the tunnel and keep any radioactive waste shielded and held down in case the tunnel were to collapse more.

Just how they’ll grout it or what it will cost—or if it will be cleaned up more later—hasn’t been determined yet. ?

“At some point in the future decisions will have to be made on how that material will be removed. But we just don’t have that right now,” U.S. Department of Energy spokesman Mark Heeter said. “Our immediate concern is getting that tunnel filled back up.” ??

Heeter said this isn’t the first time grout has been used to stabilize waste at Hanford. It was used to fill up the K-East Basin near the Columbia River and recently in a hot cell at the Waste Encapsulation Storage Facility. ??

The collapsed tunnel, located near the PUREX plant, was found by workers doing surveys. No one was injured and no release of radioactive material was found by the federal government.