Last December, as crews were demolishing the Hanford Nuclear Reservation site in Washington, work was halted after monitors alerted individuals that they had inhaled radioactive particles – and we now know that it could have been prevented. According to a new report, mismanagement and carelessness caused the exposure of at least 11 workers to nuclear waste after monitors failed to detect contamination.
The Hanover site clean-up has been plagued with problems. Storage tanks have triggered alarms after springing leaks. In May of last year, a tunnel collapsed onto train cars containing nuclear waste. Then in December at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, at least 11 workers were exposed to radioactive materials. On the bright side, the Hanford Site was declared a national park in 2015, so you can stop by if you want to get a good look at what the technology of war does to the environment.
Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company recently completed their evaluation on what happened in December. According to their report, continuous air monitors used to detect radioactive contamination failed – and officials ignored alarms signaled by the monitors that workers wear on their clothing. Then, when contamination was discovered, the report states that the steps taken to contain the radiation didn’t work. For instance, a fixative used to help contain particles was diluted, which reduced its effectiveness. Negative air pressure exhausters put in place to help contain radiation were also rendered less effective as parts of the structures were torn down. Pieces of debris were sprayed with fixative on one side, but not the other, the report also revealed.
Radioactive particles were also found in areas where it shouldn’t be – including in areas where the public is allowed to visit. The report is being reviewed by a Department of Energy panel, and CH2M provided 42 steps that it plans to take to prevent something like this from happening in the future.