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Environment and Planning
00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Low-Level Contamination Escapes Demolition Site At Hanford

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Hanford Plateau
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The main processing facility at Hanford's Plutonium Finishing Plant was demolished from October 10-15, 2017.

There has been another incident of contamination at the Hanford Site. This one involves worker vehicles that were driven off the nuclear cleanup site in southeast Washington state.

Two vehicles that were contaminated with radioactive waste were driven home Friday and then came back to work at Hanford Monday. They were discovered to be contaminated along with several other areas—all near the demolition site called the Plutonium Finishing Plant.  ?

Low levels of contamination were found near the trailers, on a jersey barrier, a vehicle hood, the ground and a trash can. ?

So far, no contamination was detected inside either car. Workers were asked to stay in offices Monday, as more surveys are being done. ?

This incident follows last week when six demolition workers had encountered elevated contamination readings on their lapel monitors. Those workers are undergoing bio-assays to see if any contamination has gotten into their bodies. Results are due in a month.

The Plutonium Finishing Plant was a massive building that used to make hockey puck-sized “plutonium buttons” for bombs since 1949. Workers have been steadily working to tear down that plant since 2016. It’s nearly done. They think it will be slab on grade in January.

The contractor doing the work for the federal government said they will only restart work when the possible contamination events have been sorted out.

There have been about six other incidents of radiological contamination alerts at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demo job, but the workers didn’t get any dose, the company said.

Contract workers will be off for Christmas starting after work on Dec. 22.