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Highly radioactive soil found near Columbia River


Hanford Nuclear Reservation officials say they don’t know how much radioactive contaminated soil they’re dealing with yet. What they do know is that newly discovered radioactive dirt exceeds lethal limits and is not far from the Columbia River and the city of Richland.

The contaminated soil is under a research building used for 30 years to study reprocessing of radioactive fuel. There was a leak in the floor where radioactive waste was collected and drained.

Now the federal government and its cleanup contractor, Washington Closure Hanford, are trying to figure out what to do about it.

The firm's Todd Nelson said monitoring shows the contamination at 8,900 rad-per-hour, about 11 times the lethal dose. He stresses, however, it doesn't pose danger to workers.

“It does not represent any danger to workers or the environment. Given the fact it’s underneath a building, there are no workers working above it. Obviously there is a concrete slab above it as well,” Nelson said.

Nelson said  his company doesn’t believe the contamination has made its way to the water table. Washington Closure Hanford hasn't yet determined how to clean up the soil, or what it will cost.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.