On heels of increased cleanup funding request, contamination incident reported at Hanford

By: KIRO 7 News Staff

Updated:

RICHLAND, Wash. - On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown sent a letter to President Trump and federal energy and budget officials requesting additional funding for Hanford cleanup efforts.

The request couldn't have been more timely: Thursday evening, a worker at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation got radioactive contamination on his clothing during an incident at an underground waste storage tank, the Associated Press reported.

Hanford contractor Washington River Protection Solutions said the worker was pulling a robotic device out of the space between the double walls of Tank AZ-101 when the incident happened.

Monitors detected radiation at three times the expected level and the workers left the area.

The contractor said contamination was found on one worker's protective clothing, which was removed. Monitors showed no further contamination on that worker and all members of the crew were cleared for normal duty.

Established in 1943, Hanford is located near Richland and for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons. Many of the wastes produced by that work are stored in 177 underground tanks.

In their letter to President Trump, Inslee and Brown cited the collapsed tunnel at the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Planet (PUREX) earlier this month and said that incident was “an urgent reminder of the challenges in cleaning up the Hanford site that require a rededication of attention and resources in order to ensure progress moving forward.”

The president's earlier budget proposal released in March included an increase in funding for the office within the U.S. Energy Department that is charged with cleanup of the nation's nuclear waste sites. Inslee and Brown are specifically seeking additional resources are allocated to the Office of River Protection and the Richland Operations Office that are responsible for Hanford cleanup.

"We write to urge that your final federal budget proposal for federal fiscal year 2018 (FFY18) include sufficient funding to accelerate the safe and efficient cleanup of nuclear waste at Hanford. This U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) site is the largest and most contaminated waste site in the United States. New legal requirements require, and recent developments at the site have emphasized, the need for robust resources to ensure the federal government continues to make progress in cleanup," the governor's stated.

The governors also noted the new legal requirements governing the federal government’s cleanup responsibilities, which were won by the State of Washington in federal court last year.

The president is expected to release a more detailed budget next week.

 

 

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