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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.

Workers Contaminated With Radioactive Waste At Hanford Climbs To 10

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Anna King / NW News Network
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As many as 10 workers at Hanford have inhaled or ingested radioactive particles at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition site.

As many as 11 workers may have ingested or inhaled radioactive contamination at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition site at Hanford in southeast Washington state. Ten workers are confirmed to have tested positive and one needs more testing to confirm the results.

That’s up from the previous count of six.

The amounts of that contamination are small when compared with an average person’s yearly background exposure. The majority have between 1 and 10 millirems. The average person gets 350 millirems per year from natural and man-made substances.

But Washington state Department of Health experts take any contamination very seriously. Nearly 300 workers have requested lab tests. And more than 50 people’s initial tests are still outstanding.

In the good news column: federal contractors found no contamination inside 53 government vehicles that were being re-checked. Workers had enacted a “stop work” this week until the insides of all the vehicles were gone over. Work is now back on.