Nuke Workers Suffer Vapor Exposure

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 @ 12:05 PM gHale


Eleven people at a nuclear facility reported headaches after working near an area where they were transferring waste from a leaking tank, officials said.

The first two workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland, WA, medically evaluated were wearing oxygen respirators because they were in an area where work was occurring that could increase the risk of chemical vapors in the air.

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After leaving the area and removing the respirators, both reported suspicious odors and said they had headaches. Both ended up evaluated and treated at an on-site medical provider.

Two other workers reported odors while walking the transfer line for the waste pumped from the leaking double-shell tank. Seven other employees nearby also reported odors, said Department of Energy (DoE) officials.

Those workers also sought on-site medical evaluations. The results were not immediately available.

Officials said the transfer of waste from the double-shell tank back into the primary tank ceased after the workers’ reports.

In April, officials said a tank known as AY-102 had leaked several thousand gallons of radioactive waste from its primary tank.

It was the first of the 28 double-walled tanks at Hanford found with leaks.

The sprawling Hanford site was constructed during World War II to make plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons. Workers at the site now clean up the leftover waste at a cost of more than $2 billion per year.

The most dangerous wastes are in 177 underground tanks, most of them old, single-walled tanks, some of which have leaked. The double-walled tanks should be much safer, officials have said.

The latest estimate to finish the cleanup of Hanford is $107.7 billion and the work will take until 2060.