Hanford Expert Says Grouting Tunnel Now Won't Stop Cleanup Later

Jun 2, 2017

Grouting up a tunnel that was found collapsed last month at Hanford is the best option according to Washington state’s top expert on Hanford. And it won’t preclude further cleanup of the radioactive waste inside.

Washington state Department of Ecology Nuclear Waste Program Manager Alex Smith has been doing a lot of work on that tunnel. It’s full of radioactive waste on train cars—it’s the leftovers from making plutonium for the Cold War.

Smith said the federal plan of filling that tunnel full of grout—if done right—will protect it from further collapse. And she said the tunnel’s contents can still be cleaned up later.

“It actually makes it easier to remove the waste at the end of the day,” Smith said. “Because right now it’s really difficult to get highly-radioactive, large pieces of equipment out of the tunnel. But if it’s encapsulated in grout that helps protect the workers.”

She said the grout could be cut up by a high-powered wire cutter into smaller pieces for removal. The federal government expects to grout the tunnel by late this year.