January 9, 1998 in City

Radioactive Water Leaked From N Reactor But ‘There Is No Health Hazard,’ Says Cleanup Spokesman

Associated Press

More than 36,000 gallons of water contaminated with radioactivity leaked from a nuclear weapons reactor at Hanford, a federal contractor said Thursday.

The water leaked from a filtration system inside a building at the N Reactor, which made plutonium for nuclear weapons before it was closed in the late 1980s, according to Bechtel Hanford Inc.

Most of the water poured into an underground sump at the site, said Bechtel, which is managing the cleanup of the defunct reactor for the U.S. Department of Energy.

But as many as 2,000 gallons leaked outside, and some was absorbed into the ground. It is several hundred yards from the Columbia River, said Bechtel spokesman Rick Dale.

“There is no health hazard from this,” Dale said.

The water was contaminated with strontium, cesium and tritium, and the amount released contained an estimated 0.4 of a curie of radioactivity, Bechtel said.

Two workers got radioactive material on their boots, but not their bodies, Bechtel said.

The leak occurred Wednesday morning when a hose split, Bechtel said. The cause is being investigated.

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