Just four Sieverts per hour is a fatal dose – worst contamination found just a few feet from groundwater

ENE News
February 7, 2012

The Tri-City Herald Reports:

Hanford officials have settled on a plan to clean up what may be the most highly radioactive spill at the nuclear reservation.

It depends on calling back into service the 47-year-old, oversized hot cell where the spill occurred to protect workers from the radioactive cesium and strontium that leaked through the hot cell to the soil below.

Radioactivity in the contaminated soil, which is about 1,000 feet from the Columbia River, has been measured at 8,900 rad per hour [89 sieverts per hour]. Direct exposure for a few minutes would be fatal, according to Washington Closure. […]

In the 1980s, cesium and strontium spilled inside the hot cell, according to a 1993 report that referenced the spill. Germany needed a heat source to use for tests of a repository for radioactive waste, which emits heat, and the cesium and strontium were being fabricated into the sources.

“This was concentrated material,” said Mark French, the Department of Energy’s project director for Hanford cleanup along the Columbia River. […]

It migrated down in a open square shape, with the worst contamination down to five or six feet deep, McBride said. There is not evidence that it has reached the ground water which is about 54 feet below the ground there and about 42 feet below the bottom of the hot cell […]

Read the original Tri-City Herald report here

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