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Radiation Alarm Prompts Order for Workers to Seek Cover via The Seattle Times

SPOKANE — Radiation warning alarms sounded Thursday at a former plutonium-production plant in Washington state, prompting a take-cover order that sent about 350 workers seeking cover indoors during the demolition of a plant that for decades had helped make nuclear weapons.

The order was lifted about four hours later after low levels of radiation were detected at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the site of a massive cleanup.


The alarm Thursday rang as crews were removing outdoor equipment at the highly contaminated 580-square-mile (1,502 square kilometer) facility near Richland, Washington.

Hanford made about two-thirds of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal, and now is engaged in cleaning up the huge volume of resulting radioactive waste at the site established by the Manhattan Project during World War II.

The tunnel collapse occurred on May 9 in a 360-foot long (110-meter) rail tunnel built in 1956 from timber, concrete and steel. Radioactive waste was stored inside, and the entrance was sealed in 1965.

The tunnel contains a mixture of radioactive and chemical waste and irradiated equipment, including eight contaminated rail cars.


The cleanup at Hanford is expected to last until 2060 and cost $100 billion more than the $19 billion already spent.

In his current spending plan, President Donald Trump has proposed cutting about $120 million from the cleanup budget.

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