Friday, Hanford officials said the likelihood for the second Purex tunnel at Hanford to collapse on itself is "high."

According to DOE officials, a review of the design of the tunnel "does not meet current codes for structural integrity and may not be able to bear the load of the soil above the tunnel."
      This also apparently applies to the first tunnel which already has been compromised.

Officials also said it could result in release of radioactive materials if it does collapse. Some of the would depend upon how large or extensive any collapse would be.  Previously on May 9, the first tunnel at the PUREX (plutonium uranium extraction facility) collapsed, leaving a 20 by 20 hole that was filled with sand and soil to prevent any potential release of radioactivity. A possible plan is to fill the hole with grout as well. No release of hazardous materials was detected, only small amounts of radiation were found to be coming from the hole before it was filled.

The railroad car tunnels were used to move equipment and materials in and out of the facility decades ago, but in the 1990's were used to bury highly radioactive and toxic materials in railroad cars. The timber and concrete reinforced tunnels are affected by the radioactive waste, officials say the creosote timbers are decayed by the radioactivity. This adds to the unstable conditions.

DOE has until July 1 and October to create and submit plans on how to further safely deal with the issue, according to the Tri-City Herald.