Work has been halted at Hanford’s most dangerous cleanup project – the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP). The government contractor in charge of the PFP demolition, CH2M Hill, stopped work on Wednesday after monitors being worn by workers turned up with high levels of radiation. Testing showed the particles contained the radioactive isotopes of plutonium and americium. The PFP job is risky because massive structures being demolished were so lethally radioactive that workers throughout the Cold War could not enter rooms where plutonium buttons were being created.
“This situation is another reminder of the challenging nature of the work at PFP and why we have a robust monitoring system in place. Demolishing PFP is a hazardous job. There isn’t anything else like it,” said Ty Blackford, President and CEO of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company.
According to Blackford, there have been seven instances of “elevated radiological readings” on air samplers being worn by six different employees since December 8.
Internal Hanford documents about the events obtained by the KING 5 Investigators show that contamination was found outside the project’s containment zone on Wednesday. Alpha radioactivity (the most dangerous kind to be ingested or inhaled by humans) was found on items including a wooden valve box, a concrete slab, a concrete pillar, a man lift basket, piping, an electrical box, and a portable toilet.