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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.

Hanford Cleanup Board Asks For Health Analysis On Tank Vapors

Anna King
Northwest News Network
An advisory board wants the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors to better analyze records on the health of Hanford tank farm workers.

The medical histories of radioactive cleanup workers should be examined more closely at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

That’s likely to be the advice Thursday morning from a cleanup advisory board at the nuclear site in southeast Washington.

These workers are dealing with massive underground tanks stewing with 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge. Some are leaking.

And for years, workers have reported breathing chemical vapors on the job. Now even more workers are reporting headaches, dizziness and having to leave work to go to the doctor.

So the Hanford Advisory Board is asking the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors to better analyze records on the health of tank farm workers. The board wants DOE to contact workers who were exposed to chemical vapors even as far back as 20 years ago, and see how their health is now.

DOE and its contractors have said they’re getting better equipment to test the air and reduce inhalation problems.

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.