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Potential for a catastrophic nuclear tunnel collapse at Hanford, warn tri-City mayors

Tri-City mayors worry about ‘catastrophic’ Hanford tunnel collapse , BY ANNETTE CARY, acary@tricityherald.com,  August 10, 2018  RICHLAND, WA 

Tri-City-area mayors say the public is at risk of a “potentially catastrophic tunnel collapse” if work doesn’t start soon to stabilize a Hanford tunnel storing radioactive waste.

The Department of Energy recently asked the Washington State Department of Ecologyto allow Hanford nuclear reservation workers to fill the longer of the two tunnels with concrete-like grout.

Federal officials requested an answer by July 23 to begin work in August.  Ecology, a regulator at the Hanford nuclear reservation, is legally required to give an answer as soon as it practically can.

Starting work in August would allow most work to be done before the worst of the winter weather makes roads icy, according to federal officials. The project will require 5,000 truckloads of grout.

“What DOE is asking is to take irreversible action — put grout in that tunnel — before the the public process really has a chance to get off the ground,” said Alex Smith, Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program manager.

But many worry about the decaying tunnel and upcoming winter weather.

A video inspection of the inside of the second tunnel shows corrosion of bolts and weld plates.

“It could go another 50 years. It could go another 50 days,” said Doug Shoop, manager of the DOE Richland Operations Office told the Hanford Advisory Board on Tuesday. “I wish I could tell you.”

An unusually wet and snowy winter may have contributed to the partial collapse of the first tunnel. Precipitation-soaked soil on top of the tunnel would have increased the weight on the tunnel’s flat roof made of timbers.

The coming winter also could be unusually wet, Al Farabee, a DOE Hanford project director, told the advisory board this week.

The state is legally required to hold a 45-day public comment period, which it plans to start on Aug. 13, according to the Department of Ecology. Public hearings are planned 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Richland library and Sept. 5 in Seattle.

The mayors of Kennewick, Richland, Pasco and West Richland sent a letter July 31 to Smith, saying they were frustrated by how long the state was taking to make a decision………

The issue stems from the partial collapse in May 2017 of the older of two PUREX plant waste storage tunnels.

Questions have been raised about how rail cars filled with waste could be removed eventually from a tunnel filled with grout, although DOE says cutting up the grouted waste and removing it should be possible.

The partial collapse of the first tunnel triggered a structural analysis of the second and longer waste storage tunnel, which was built in 1964, eight years after the first.
The analysis found the 1,700-foot tunnel also was at serious risk of collapse……..  Annette Cary; 509-582-1533; @HanfordNews  https://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article216352450.html

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August 13, 2018 - Posted by | safety, USA

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