RADIOACTIVE: Workers go back into hazardous room at Hanford that sickened worker in 1976

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RICHLAND, Wash. — Employees are working to mitigate any remaining danger at one of the most hazardous rooms at the Hanford site.

Safety is the number one priority as workers clean up the McCluskey room, named after a worker injured during a radioactive accident during the Cold-War era, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and contractor CH2M HILL.

Contractors have gone back into the room inside the site’s Plutonium Finishing Plant for the first time since 2011.

“It has taken a year to prepare for this first entry,” said Bryan Foley, federal project director for the Department of Energy. “The time and effort workers put into finding the right equipment and training will ensure they are as prepared as possible to remain safe during the cleanup.”

The McCluskey room was originally used to recover americium which is a highly radioactive plutonium byproduct, according to the DOE.

In 1976, worker Harold McCluskey was hurt when a vessel inside a glove box burst and exposed him to radioactive material.

McCluskey was 64-years-old when the accident happened. Officials said he live another 11 years and died from causes unrelated to the accident.

Department officials said the room still contains “numerous hazards” including airborne radioactivity and surface contamination.

Employees are using protective suites and advanced supplied-air systems that have never before been used at Hanford. Officials said these suits offer better protection and communication.

The long-term goal: to demolish the Plutonium Finishing Plant, but first crews need to remove much of the equipment inside.

According to CH2M HILL, 212 of the plant’s 238 glove boxes have been removed or cleaned out and prepared for removal. 63 of 81 buildings have been removed.

VIDEO:  Preparing to enter one of Hanford’s most hazardous rooms

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