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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.

Tests Show Hanford Workers Ingested Radioactive Waste

U.S. Department of Energy
File photo. Demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant at Hanford was halted on December 18, 2017.

Two Hanford workers have tested positive for radioactive waste in their bodies. It happened at the Plutonium Finishing Plant—a massive factory being demolished at the nuclear cleanup site in southeast Washington state.

The government and its contractors have been struggling to contain the spread of contamination at the demo site since June. But more and more contamination spread was found this winter since December. ? ?

The workers with contamination might have breathed in, or ingested radioactive waste. Officials say it’s at low levels. The person who tested positive with the highest levels, will get 10 millirem of dose over 50 years. That’s about the same as flying 10,000 miles in a commercial jet. ?

According to the Department of Energy that dose is above background levels, but “well below regulatory limits.” ?

As of now, 271 workers have requested bioassay tests and more worker test results are due back soon. 

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.