Eight workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation reported smelling strange odors Tuesday, according to a Hanford contractor.
Three of the workers received medical evaluations and were cleared to return to work. The other five reported smelling odors but declined medical evaluations.
The workers in the 271 instrument building of the AW Tank Farms were preparing an empty storage box to receive containerized tank waste samples when they reported smelling a glue-like odor.
Washington River Protection Solutions said the workers were told to leave the building. Access to the area was then restricted.
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Technicians used instruments to examine the area, but didn’t detect anything above background levels.
The contractor said other air samples tested in a lab came back as “below action levels.” Access to the building was then restored.
The contractor said the workers were not in an area that requires workers to use supplied-air respirators.
The AW farms contain double-shell tanks used to store waste left from the past production of plutonium at Hanford for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
The last report of suspicious odors near the tank farm was in October when six workers reported an onion-like smell. None reported symptoms and declined medical evaluations.
Then in June, five workers received medical evaluations after they and others smelled a suspicious odor outside the A Tank Farm. All were released to return to work.
The Department of Energy and its tank farm contractor are being sued in federal court by the state of Washington, Hanford Challenge and union Local 598 for better protection of Hanford workers from chemical vapors.
More than 50 workers received medical checks in 2016 because of potential exposure to chemical vapors and were cleared by the site's occupational health provider to return to work.
Most of the incidents occurred before Washington River Protection Solutions began requiring supplied air respirators for most work inside tank farms in response to a stop-work order issued by the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council.
Reporter Annette Cary contributed to this report.