Can Hanford's Tank Vapor Problems Be Fixed?

May 1, 2014
Originally published on April 30, 2014 3:25 pm

Each year federal and state managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington give a rundown on how things are going.

Call it the Hanford "State of the Site address."

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 World War II and the Cold War.

This past year, dozens of workers have complained about becoming ill after smelling vapors at the site. Workers claim that there isn’t enough real-time monitoring of the chemicals they’re exposed to or enough study of their health once they have been exposed.

Sheldon Coleman introduced himself as a retired industrial hygienist who worked at Hanford for 27 years. He said, “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.”

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

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