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More radioactively contaminated vehicles found at Hanford

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 28, 2017

In this May 9, 2017, file photo, an emergency sign flashes outside the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. Radiation warning alarms sounded about 7 a.m., Thursday, June 8, 2017, outside the Plutonium Finishing Plant, prompting about 350 workers at the Reservation to seek cover indoors. (Manuel Valdes / AP)
In this May 9, 2017, file photo, an emergency sign flashes outside the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. Radiation warning alarms sounded about 7 a.m., Thursday, June 8, 2017, outside the Plutonium Finishing Plant, prompting about 350 workers at the Reservation to seek cover indoors. (Manuel Valdes / AP)
By Associated Press By Annette Cary

RICHLAND, Wash. – The number of vehicles with specks of radioactive material has increased to 19 as checks continue at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant continue.

Twelve additional government and contractor vehicles were found with radioactive contamination as of Wednesday afternoon, with 55 vehicles still to be surveyed, the Tri-City Herald reported .

Seven worker vehicles were found to have specks of contamination after demolition was completed Dec. 15 on the most contaminated section of the plant.

Work was halted for two days earlier this month after air monitors worn by several workers showed they might have inhaled radioactive particles.

Workers have since been cleared to return to the demolition of the plant, which for decades was part of the nation’s nuclear weapons production complex.

The U.S. Department of Energy has called the work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant the most hazardous demolition project on the site.

“We take this very, very seriously,” Ty Blackford, president of Energy contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co, said earlier this month. “We are dealing with a form of contamination that is very, very hard to manage.”

The highest potential exposure was 11 millirems for one of the workers.

The average person in the United States is exposed to 620 millirems of radiation annually from natural sources, such as radon or radiation from Earth and outer space, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioh website.

Workers wear the monitors near their faces as a check for airborne radioactive particles that could be inhaled.

No contamination was found at the homes of those workers.

Post-demolition surveying has found specks of radioactive material, some too small to see, spread outside the demolition zone.

Additional layers of fixative are being applied to areas where contamination has been found to keep it from becoming airborne.

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