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Feds To Investigate Contamination Spread at Hanford

The Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Southeast Washington.
Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
The Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Southeast Washington.

The U.S. Department of Energy is launching a federal investigation into a demolition site at the Hanford nuclear reservation where radioactive waste from the site has been spreading in unexplained ways.

Called the Plutonium Finishing Plant, it’s a massive factory building that the government is trying to tear down. But since last year, forty-two demolition workers have been found to have radioactive contamination in their bodies, dozens of cars were contaminated and more windblown specks of radioactive waste were found near a public highway.

The demo project has been idled since the winter -- even though the project is a year behind its “slab on grade” deadline. The state Department of Ecology and EPA have called for work to stop until officials can prove contamination won’t spread further.

Now, an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy is looking into the whole thing.

In a recent letter, the department informed CH2M Hill, the contractor in charge of the demolition, that it’s going to need documents and will be coming to town to interview workers.

The DOE continues to work on shoring up a large debris pile that is thought to be the source of much of this escaped material. It’s also doing a “root cause evaluation” and study what can be done to safely complete the demolition.

The Plutonium Finishing Plant was a large factory at Hanford that turned liquids containing plutonium into solid plutonium “buttons” during the Cold War.

Copyright 2018 Northwest News Network

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.
Anna King
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.
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