Hanford

Wind spreads Hanford waste specks toward highway

The Hanford 618-10 Burial Ground trenches are shown as they looked during excavation earlier this year.
The Hanford 618-10 Burial Ground trenches are shown as they looked during excavation earlier this year.

Hanford workers were surveying the ground six miles north of Richland for radioactive contamination after a Tuesday windstorm spread some radioactive particles from the 618-10 Burial Ground.

The waste trenches there have been dug up to retrieve radioactive material buried near Route 4, the main Hanford highway to the site’s Wye Barricade.

The closest contamination to the public road was on a speck of sand found about 40 feet off the highway, said Peter Bengtson, spokesman for Washington Closure Hanford. Several other specks were found, but they were closer to the burial ground.

“The levels do not pose a risk to the public or the workers cleaning it up,” he said.

The levels do not pose a risk to the public or the workers cleaning it up.

Peter Bengtson, Washington Closure Hanford

The contamination is not in a form that could be breathed in, or that would stick to a person’s skin or clothing, he said. Workers doing the surveys are wearing orange vests and hard hats rather than suits for radioactive protection.

Despite the low risk of the contamination, it is not acceptable to find radioactive material where it is not supposed to be, Bengtson said.

Radiological control technicians will be out again Nov. 20 surveying the ground near the 618-10 Burial Ground. Specks of radioactive contamination are being shoveled into bags for disposal.

Washington Closure is continuing the surveying to verify the area is clean, then will study the incident to see what can be learned to prevent reoccurances, Bengtson said.

It is standard practice to check for the possible spread of any contamination daily, but there is a higher level of concern after a windstorm.

It is standard practice to check for the possible spread of any contamination daily, but there is a higher level of concern after a windstorm.

Strong winds were forecast for Tuesday, and workers had prepared the burial ground by applying more fixative to the soil. But the fixative was not entirely a match for wind gusts that hit 70 mph.

Washington Closure has had trouble with contamination spreading at the burial ground since summer 2014, according to the weekly staff reports of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

A few small pieces of contaminated plastic were found outside the area posted as having radioactive hazards. A few weeks later, four small pieces of plastic were found outside the burial ground’s boundary fence after a windstorm.

Another spread of contamination was reported in the past summer, with the Department of Energy issuing a letter of concern in July.

The previous spreads of contamination were not as close to the highway as this week.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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