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Department Of Energy Takes Comment On Hanford Tunnel Plan

A thick tarp covers the collapsed tunnel structure at the Hanford nuclear site.

A thick tarp covers the collapsed tunnel structure at the Hanford nuclear site.

U.S. Department of Energy

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 cleanup.

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 Aug. 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 Aug. 1 deadline.

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