Plutonium Found in Air Off Hanford Site

July 28, 2000
Air samples taken during and after the Hanford nuclear reservation fire show increased levels of plutonium in public areas outside the reservation.

Air samples taken during and after the Hanford nuclear reservation fire last month showed plutonium concentrations in public areas outside the reservation 1,000 times higher than normal levels, but below all Washington state and federal safety standards.

Five of 41 routine monitoring samples contained above normal concentrations, however, experts from EPA and the state said there was no reason for alarm.

The five increased readings were measured in the Pasco, Richland and West Richland communities, which are within 10 miles of the reservation.

"They are on the order of a thousand-fold lower than what would drive public protective action," said Jerry Leitch, EPA''s regional radiation program manager. "I don''t think anybody needs to change anything they do, day to day, based on these results."

People on average absorb about 350 millirem of radiation a year from a variety of sources, said EPA.

Hundreds of air, soil and vegetation samples were taken during and after last month''s 191,000 -acre wildfire burned nearly half the reservation, the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.

In the coming weeks, federal and state officials will release results from radiation tests on vegetation and a handful of firefighters most likely to have been exposed to radioactive elements.

Plutonium, the material processed at Hanford for use in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II, exists in the atmosphere already, as fallout from Cold War experiments.

EPA said the plutonium concentrations recently discovered are no higher than those detected nationwide after nuclear testing during the 1960s and 1970s. And those were not considered above safety standards.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

Sponsored Recommendations

10 Facts About the State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

July 12, 2024
Workplace safety in the U.S. has improved over the past 50 years, but progress has recently stalled. This report from the AFL-CIO highlights key challenges.

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!