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US agrees to improve worker safety at polluted nuclear site via TDN.com

SEATTLE — The U.S. government will test and implement a new system to capture and destroy dangerous vapors released at the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site as part of a settlement agreement reached Wednesday.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told reporters that the agreement represents a major win for hundreds of workers who have been getting sick for years while cleaning up the nation’s nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington.

“Those workers deserve to be protected,” Ferguson said.

 

He added that the U.S. Department of Energy did not take the issue seriously and resisted putting protections in place.

“There’s no way to sugar coat this,” Ferguson said.

The Energy Department will for the first time test a new technology that Ferguson called “game-changing” that would protect workers from the vapor exposures.

Under the agreement, the agency will pay $925,000 in fees and costs to the state and Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that has for decades been warning about worker safety. The agency will also install a new vapor monitoring and alarm system and maintain safety measures that are currently in place, including supplying air and respirators.

The Department of Energy said in an emailed statement that the agreement “acknowledges the extensive actions” that the agency, and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions LLC, have taken to protect workers from potential exposure to chemical vapors.

 

 

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