Hanford tunnel collapse is a 'warning,' state lawmaker says

The partial collapse of a tunnel containing toxic waste shows the U.S. government is taking too long to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, according to Washington State Representative Gerry PolletD-Seattle.

"The Energy Department has been utterly, totally reckless with health and safety at Hanford and at other energy department sites," he said.

Pollet blasted the government for delaying cleanup of two tunnels that contain rail cars that were loaded up with contaminated equipment during the Cold War. Eight of those cars are in the 360-foot-long tunnel where the partial collapse occurred Tuesday.

The tunnels are made of concrete and shored up by wooden timbers.

"We know that the high level of radiation doses destroy the concrete and the integrity of the wooden timbers, and so we've been worried for literally 20 years that the tunnel could collapse," Pollet said.

Yet he says the tunnel cleanup isn't expected to be completed until 2042, because – he suspects – of the cost.

"The energy department is trying to avoid spending the money to get the waste out of these (tunnels), and you can't do this on the cheap," said Pollet.

He does not find it reassuring the Energy Department reported no radiation was released in Tuesday's collapse. In an earthquake prone region, a large quake could damage the tunnels and nearby facilities, unleashing radiation that would prompt hundreds of miles of evacuations and destruction.  

"We know that that earthquake is coming," Pollet said, "And every year it hasn't happened, we've gotten off, like winning the lottery."     

© 2017 KING-TV


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