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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.

U.S. Department Of Energy Takes Comment On Collapsed Tunnel Plan

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U.S. Department of Energy
A thick tarp covers the collapsed tunnel structure at the Hanford nuclear site.

In the wake of a tunnel collapse at the Hanford nuclear site in May, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to take public comments at a meeting in the Tri-Cities on July 20 on how it should proceed with the clean-up.

The tunnel that collapsed is one of a pair that was built during the Cold War. According to an Energy Department report, both tunnels are in imminent danger of further collapse. Officials are concerned that if the tunnels collapse further they could send up a plume of radioactive dust. 

The meeting is in in advance of the August 1 deadline to get a stabilization plan for both tunnels to the Washington state Department of Ecology. But critics are asking what they can really comment on. They want to see the plan first and are worried that Energy will grout the tunnels closed and leave them long term without further cleanup. ?

Energy said it will have experts available to describe what they know so far about the tunnels. Federal officials are also looking for retired workers who may have experience with the tunnels and might have valuable information. ? ?

The current plan is to seal the collapsed tunnel by filling it with grout by the end of the year. The feds say they will announce a plan for the second tunnel by the August 1 deadline.