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Radioactive contamination found in ‘clean’ cars, says Hanford watchdog via Tri-City Herald

Annette Cary

A small amount of radioactive contamination has been found in the air filters of two vehicles parked at the Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation, according to a Seattle-based Hanford watchdog group.

Hanford Challenge took five filters from four vehicles in Richland and Pasco that Hanford workers parked at the plant. The cars previously were checked at Hanford and declared clean of contamination, according to Hanford Challenge.

The filters included a mix of cabin and engine filters, with the contamination found in two of the engine filters.

In response, an employee issued a stop-work order Tuesday on the use of government vehicles at the plant until more checks for radioactive contamination could be done. Any worker who believes conditions are unsafe can halt work.


They contained americium, a radioactive material associated with the past production of plutonium at Hanford for the nation’s nuclear weapons program, according to the analysis.

However, the americium in smoke detectors is contained in ceramic and foil to prevent it from becoming airborne like the contamination at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, and the Environmental Protection Agency warns against tampering with it.

The bottom line is that Hanford officials should be controlling plutonium and americium, and americium should not be found in worker cars, said Tom Carpenter, Hanford Challenge executive director.

“The owners of these vehicles are devastated and scared about the heath of their families,” he said. “These vehicles were used by their families, to carry groceries and to go to and from work.”

Carpenter had expected that no contamination would be found, considering the filters from just four cars were checked. But after finding two of four cars with contamination, Hanford Challenge and Kaltofen are checking filters from more vehicles.



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