The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is a complex managed by the US federal government and has manufactured Plutonium that was used in the first nuclear bomb that was detonated over Nagaski, Japan. The site is located in Washington, on the outskirts of Oregon and Idaho. Visitors are now able to visit the B Reactor, which was a positive turning point for the headquarters of the catastrophic atomic bomb that abolished Nagaski and killed at least 129,000 people… Until now.
The nine reactors at Hanford have now been decommissioned, which has left 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. According to recent reports, there have been a number of breaches in the tanks that are currently holding the nuclear waste. Workers on site have fallen ill, which indicates the plans to convert Hanford into a park is looking less and less likely.
These underground tanks were only meant to be a temporary solution to the amount of nuclear waste the site had produced. A new plant was arranged to be constructed to prepare the waste to be stored permanently in a safe condition. This is likely to be the most expensive environmental project to be undertaken and won’t be completed for at least four decades. It brings huge concern that two tanks are now leaking, which is contaminating the earth surrounding the tanks with toxic waste. However, the exact chemicals leaked are not completely known, despite detailed investigation.
The fears have now grown due to the fact 47 Hanford workers fell ill due to the leakage from the AY-102 tank. The symptoms reported were headaches, burning nose and throat, nausea and strange metal-like taste of the mouth.
This will surely dim any anticipation for the conversion of the plant into a park. The volumes of toxic waste that has been released poses more threat than the Fukushima disaster, which could spread radiation to across the West of the United States. It doesn’t bring much enthusiasm about the possibility of a park, considering the area is now deemed as harmful to humans.
General Bob Ferguson, the Washington State Attorney has claimed he is investigating the legal options for these workers in depth, to provide justice to those that have fallen ill. According to him, “What’s happening isn’t right, and I am exploring further legal options to keep our workers safe,” But what does this mean for the workers? Ferguson has already filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Energy in September about the lack of protection for people working in and around the plant. Employees at risk have been evacuated from the plant as a precautionary measure due these symptoms occurring.