Hanford: Can Tank Vapor Problems Be Fixed?

Apr 30, 2014

 Each year federal and state managers at Handford's southeast Washington nuclear cleanup site give a rundown on how things are going. Last night’s conversation was dominated by what’s being done to improve conditions for workers at Hanford’s radioactive tank farms.  

These large tanks store the leftover sludge from plutonium production during WWII and the Cold War. This past year, dozens of workers have complained about becoming ill after smelling vapors at the site. Workers complain that there isn’t enough real-time monitoring of the chemicals they’re exposed to or enough study of their health once they’ve been exposed.

Sheldon Coleman introduced himself as a retired industrial hygienist who worked at Hanford for 27 years. 

“I don’t care how many people you throw at the problem, or how many dollars that you put into the tank farm safety system – if you don’t have the confidence of the people, you’ve failed,” said Coleman.

The feds say they’ve asked a top government lab to look at the tank vapor problems. Seattle-based Hanford watchdog Tom Carpenter responded the nuclear site has done many vapor studies over the decades, but workers continue to get sick.

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