Energy Secretary, Experts Take Closer Look At Hanford's Black Cells

Aug 2, 2012

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s so-called “black cells” are getting another look from a new high-level group of experts. The announcement today from the U.S. Department of Energy comes just as the southeast Washington nuclear site implements new safety standards for non-radioactive risks.

Black cells are chambers in a nuclear waste treatment plant that’s being designed to bind-up millions of gallons of radioactive sludge. These massive rooms will be so radioactively hot they’ll be sealed off from humans for the 40 years the plant will run. The new research panel, which includes Secretary Steven Chu himself,  is aimed at ensuring problems inside can be detected and fixed.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy and its contractors are continuing to streamline safety rules at the site. Jeff Frey is a Hanford manager.

Frey: “It’s some of these normal industrial hazards that pose the largest risks.”

Frey says the energy department and its contractors have now agreed to common safety practices to prevent falls. It’s the latest addition to a set of workplace safety standards begun in 2008.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio