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Washington State: Workers Exposed To Radioactive Particles, Monitors Failed At Nuclear Plant

As per a new report, due to improper safety measure and poor management have led to the exposure of workers to radioactive particles at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. on Thursday released its evaluation of what went wrong in December during the demolition of the nuclear reservation’s highly contaminated Plutonium Finishing Plant.

Nuclear Site Missteps

The Tri-City Herald reports the study states primary radioactive air monitors installed at a highly hazardous Hanford project failed to detect contamination. Further, when the spread of contamination was detected, steps taken to contain it didn’t fully work out.

11 Workers Under Risk

At least 11 Hanford workers tested since mid-December inhaled or ingested small amounts of radioactive particles. In addition, some private and government vehicles were contaminated with radioactive particles.

The dismantled site in southeastern Washington stocks more than 50 million gallons of radioactive and toxic wastes in underground storage tanks. It’s owned by the U.S. Department of Energy, which hires private contractors to manage the cleanup work.

Hanford came into existence during World War II and made the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The 560-square mile site also created most of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weaponry during the Cold War.

The report released Thursday said before the December spread of contamination, Hanford officials were relying primarily on continuous air monitors that check for airborne radioactive contamination in near real-time and sound an alarm if workers may be in the risk of danger.

The monitors had worked in the past, including in June, when alarms sounded and workers were told to shelter in place.

But the monitors were unable to detect any airborne contamination in December, possibly because some of the particles that spread were too heavy to stay aloft.

Officials had other signs that there might be a problem, including contamination found in monitors that workers wear on their lapels, yet continued to rely on the continuous air monitors.

The CH2M report, which is now being reviewed by a Department of Energy panel, listed 42 steps to take in response to its findings, like changes to training for radiological workers.

Source: REUTERS 

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