Surveys of the homes of seven Hanford nuclear reservation workers were completed Thursday, with no radioactive contamination found, according to the Department of Energy.
Specks of radioactive contamination have been on seven workers’ cars or pickups this week. At least two possibly were contaminated when they were driven home Dec. 15.
The spread of contamination is believed to be the result of the final day of demolition of the highly contaminated Plutonium Reclamation Facility at the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant. The last of the reclamation facility was torn down to its foundation Dec. 15.
Windy weather Sunday likely also contributed to the spread of contamination outside zones established around demolition at the plant where contamination was supposed to be contained. Workers wear protective gear in the areas surrounding demolition being done with heavy equipment.
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Workers remain concerned about the spread.
Hanford officials have not recommended workers be checked for inhaled contamination because air monitors have not detected airborne radioactive particles since Dec. 15.
However, 240 workers have requested bioassays, tests that check their body waste for signs of radioactive contamination could have been inhaled and remains in their bodies.
Some 82 of the requests were made by tank farmer workers. Both Hanford’s underground waste storage tanks and the Plutonium Finishing Plant are in central Hanford.
Some of the tank farm workers also could have been helping out at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, as workers from other projects were assigned to the plant to help survey for radioactive contamination and contain it this week.
Many of the specks of contamination are too small to be seen but can be found using instruments that detect radiation.
The contamination spread across Camden Avenue near the plant, and workers who drive that road have been encouraged to have their cars checked for contamination. Contaminants were found across the road from the plant, but not on the road.
Demolition work has been halted at the Plutonium Finishing Plant for what DOE calls a “safety pause.” Just a few weeks of work had been expected to be needed after Dec. 15 to demolish the remaining portion of the plant, an area holding two main processing lines.
The plant was used to convert plutonium that came into the plant in a liquid solution to a solid form that could be shipped to the nation’s nuclear weapons manufacturing plants during the Cold War.