Work halted at Hanford after radiation is found to have spread

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Hal Bernton hbernton@seattletimes.com
Demolition work at Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant has been stopped because of concerns about spreading contamination. Seven homes off-site were surveyed, and more than 200 workers have requested testing.
A government contractor has suspended demolition work at Hanford’s long-shuttered plutonium finishing plant after repeated incidents of contamination spreading from the job site in recent weeks, raising concerns among workers who might have been exposed to radioactive materials.
Radioactive particles were detected on 14 vehicles, and as of Friday 257 workers had requested bioassay tests to determine whether they might have breathed in contamination. Seven homes have been surveyed, but no signs of contamination were found, according to a federal Energy Department timeline of events.
In recent days, the major contractor on the job — CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. — has scrambled to assess the scope of the problems, which likely were exacerbated by high winds that whipped through the site near the Tri-Cities last Sunday when the demolition work was halted.
“Mistakes were made at several levels that created a situation that is unacceptable for worker safety, protection of the environment, and service to our customer,” said Ty Blackford, president of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company, in a written statement.
An Energy Department statement released Thursday said that contaminated areas were found, that they were covered with soil and a “fixative” and that no new contaminated sites were located during the day’s work.