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On the Calendar

March 4, 2018
Event: 60-day Public Comment Period on Proposed Modifications to PUREX Storage Tunnels
Category: Comment Period / Feedback Opportunity
Event Date: February 12 – April 12

The U.S. Department of Energy Richland Operations Office (RL) is holding a 60-day public comment period from February 12 to April 12, 2018, to support a Class 3 Permit Modification to the Hanford Dangerous Waste Permit. The modification addresses the stabilization of Tunnels 1 and 2 at the Plutonium Uranium Extraction (PUREX) Plant, until final closure decisions are made and implemented.

The PUREX Plant is located in the 200 East Area of the Hanford Site near Richland, Washington. It was used from 1956 to 1988 to process spent nuclear reactor fuel, and recovered plutonium, uranium and other radioactive isotopes. Spent nuclear fuel is fuel that has been exposed to radiation in a nuclear reactor. Two tunnels are used for the storage of waste — mostly large equipment components — from the PUREX plant and other onsite sources. The tunnels protect workers, the environment and the public from exposure to highly radioactive residues within the stored waste.

In May 2017, a 20-foot section of the roof of Tunnel 1 collapsed. The collapse caused a two-day emergency response that involved notifying the public and regulatory agencies, sheltering site employees until surveys verified no contamination was released and filling the collapsed portion of the tunnel with soil. RL addressed the threat of further failure in Tunnel 1 by filling it with engineered grout. That work began in October and was completed in November. RL also evaluated the structural integrity of Tunnel 2, identified a threat of potential collapse, and also determined that filling Tunnel 2 with engineered grout is also necessary to stabilize the tunnel and mitigate the risk of potential failure. If this permit modification is approved on schedule that work will begin this summer.

Engineered grout is a mixture of various materials customized for a specific job. More than 4,400 cubic yards of engineered grout was used to surround all of the equipment inside Tunnel 1.

The purpose of this permit modification is to describe the stabilization actions taken for Tunnel 1, actions proposed for stabilizing Tunnel 2, and their relationship for future closure and cleanup actions.

This proposed permit modification includes a 60-day public comment period, along with an opportunity to learn more and provide comments at a public meeting. The public meeting is Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. in the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive, Richland, Washington  99352.

Please submit comments on the proposed changes by April 12, 2018, via eComments, to: or via mail to:

Daina McFadden
Washington State Department of Ecology
3100 Port of Benton Boulevard
Richland, WA 99354

The meeting will also be accessible via webinar. To register go to: 

Webinar ID: 997-328-411

The proposed permit modification and supporting documentation is available at, as well as the Public Information Repositories located in Richland, Seattle, Spokane and Portland. These locations and additional information on public involvement can be found here.

Questions? Please contact Rich Buel, RL, at

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