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Feds: High-risk radioactive Hanford tunnel needs filling now

A sign warns visitors of searches for prohibited materials as they near the Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington the most contaminated nuclear site in the Western hemisphere. (Shaun Tandon/AFP/Getty Images)

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Department of Energy wants to start stabilizing a Hanford tunnel filled with radioactive waste that is at risk of collapse without waiting for more public comments.

The Tri-City Herald reports the department has asked the Washington Department of Ecology if it can proceed with filling the nearly 1,700-foot-long storage tunnel with concrete-like grout in August.

The energy department held a public comment period on the plan but the state has its own 45-day comment period and public meetings starting this month.

Ecology spokesman Randy Bradbury says officials will review the request but plan to continue with their public process.

The older of the two waste storage tunnels partially collapsed in May 2017, forcing thousands of workers to take cover.

The energy department wants to begin tunnel filling before winter.