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Hanford Contractor Releases Fresh Plan To Keep Tank Workers Safer

Washington state intends to sue the federal government if Hanford workers are not better protected at the tank farms on the site.
Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
Washington state intends to sue the federal government if Hanford workers are not better protected at the tank farms on the site.

Hanford Nuclear Reservation officials Tuesday made public their plan to improve safety for workers in the so-called “tank farms.”

Hanford is home to 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge left over from World War II and the Cold War.

This new plan was spurred by more than 50 Hanford workers complaining of getting sick and an independent report by a national lab last year. That report said workers are likely being exposed to short bursts of concentrated vapors that are hard to track with the current monitoring systems.

This new plan proposes to regularly test the tanks’ headspace for chemicals, possibly increase the height of ventilation stacks and improve the communication about vapor exposures with employees.

Some recommendations are already in place, like putting workers on canned-air until better solutions are available and tested.

Watchdogs say they want more clarity when it comes to compensating workers for past exposures – which might have been missed by the old monitoring systems.

The Department of Energy has assigned a panel of experts to oversee implementation of the new requirements.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

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.