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Demolition of plutonium processing plant stalled due to radiation risks to workers

Danger from radiation shuts down nuclear plant demolition in Washington state, WLWT5,  
NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, 8 Apr 18, 
Seven decades after making key portions of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are being exposed to radiation as they tear down buildings that helped create the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Dozens of workers demolishing a plutonium processing plant from the 1940s have inhaled or ingested radioactive particles in the past year, and even carried some of that radiation into their vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The incidents have prompted the federal government, along with state regulators, to halt the demolition of the sprawling Plutonium Finishing Plant until a safe plan can be developed.

The contamination has also shaken confidence in a massive cleanup of Hanford, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. The work costs the federal Treasury around $2 billion a year. Hanford is near the city of Richland, about 200 miles southeast of Seattle.

“This is a very disturbing set of incidents,” said Tom Carpenter, head of the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge.

The Energy Department, which owns Hanford, has launched an independent investigation into the spread of radiation at the plant. The investigation will be conducted by an agency office that is not connected to work at Hanford.

Radioactive particles are known to have contaminated 42 workers, which led to the shutdown of demolition, the agency has said.

Carpenter said widespread worker contamination has been rare at Hanford in recent decades. Plutonium production ended in the 1980s and the site in 1989 switched its focus to cleanup of nuclear wastes.

“It’s one of the more serious events to happen in the age of cleanup at Hanford,” Carpenter said. “There have been other incidents, but none rose to the level of plutonium contamination of this many people and private vehicles and being found miles and miles away.”

A union representing some Hanford workers said it was closely monitoring the situation…..http://www.wlwt.com/article/danger-from-radiation-shuts-down-nuclear-plant-demolition-in-washington-state/19712632

 

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April 9, 2018 - Posted by | - plutonium, USA

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