Bird spreads radioactive contamination, stops Hanford vit plant work

June 5, 2013 

— Work was stopped Wednesday morning at parts of the Hanford vitrification plant after contaminated soil was detected under a bird’s nest, according to Bechtel National.

The amount of contaminated soil was small and contamination was at a low level, said Bechtel spokesman Todd Nelson.

About 130 workers who had been in two buildings that are are not yet enclosed were surveyed for contamination. None was found, Nelson said.

The workers were at the plant’s High Level Waste and Pretreatment Facilities.

The vitrification plant is being built to treat up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, but none of the waste has been pumped to the plant’s campus as construction continues.

Routine radiological surveys are conducted, however, to monitor for waste that might be spread from the rest of the Hanford nuclear reservation.

The 586-square-mile nuclear reservation is contaminated from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

The nest above the contamination may have been a swallow’s nest, Nelson said.

Radiological surveys of the plant were continuing Wednesday afternoon.

Any areas with contamination will be cordoned off until they can be cleaned up, Nelson said.

Vit plant employees will return to the construction site Thursday, Nelson said.

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