So far, radioactive contamination has been found in 14 government vehicles and seven owned by individuals.
Contamination problems continue to put a halt to the demolition of Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant, where the only work scheduled involves surveys and efforts to prevent the further spread of radioactive particles.
The hold on demolition at the long-shuttered facility has been in place since Dec. 17, when high winds kicked up and appeared to worsen the spread of contamination.
So far, 14 government vehicles and seven owned by individuals have been found to have contamination, said Geoff Tyree, a U.S. Department of Energy spokesman, in a Friday update.
More than 250 workers also have requested bioassay tests to determine whether they breathed in contamination, and additional requests are expected as employees return from holiday leaves.
The Hanford reservation produced plutonium during World War II and through the Cold War era.
The Department of Energy has called the work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant the most hazardous demolition project on the site. Workers going into a potentially contaminated area wear respiratory protection. They use water and something known as soil cement to try to keep hazardous materials from spreading.
“We take this very, very seriously,” Ty Blackford, president of Department of Energy contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation, said earlier this month. “We are dealing with a form of contamination that is very, very hard to manage.”
The finishing plant went into operation in 1949 and shut down in 1989. Through the years, it expanded to include more than 60 buildings involved in the processing of plutonium that was then shipped to weapons-production complexes. The contamination problems have occurred near the end of the demolition of a structure that reclaimed plutonium from scrap materials.
The contamination control work involves applying a fixative over hot spots. It has been hampered by snow and ice, which present a slip-and-fall hazard for employees wearing protective clothing.