The U.S. Department of Energy is about start shoring up another train tunnel full of old radioactive equipment at the Hanford Site in southeast Washington state. This is all happening because a similar train tunnel full of waste—called Tunnel 1—collapsed this spring.
Federal contractors filled that tunnel with grout in November.
Tunnel 2 is a lot larger than Tunnel 1—nearly 1,700 feet long and holds 28 rail cars containing old contaminated equipment from a plutonium processing plant. Crews expect to start grouting up the tunnel before next fall.
Critics, including Northwest tribes, have said that grouting closed these massive tunnels essentially makes them permanent radioactive waste dumps.
Tunnel 2 was built in the early 1960s and has had known structural problems. Government officials worry that the tunnel is under strain and that another collapse could send up a plume of radioactive dust.