Report Concludes Hanford Spill Could Have been Prevented; Illnesses Not Due to Spill - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Report Concludes Hanford Spill Could Have been Prevented; Illnesses Not Due to Spill

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RICHLAND, Wash.- An independent Department of Energy report on July's radioactive tank waste spill concludes better planning could have prevented it.

At least 12 workers have already come forward claiming they fell ill after the spill, but in a letter to the managers of DOE's two Hanford offices, the Department says it's unlikely those sicknesses are linked to the spill.

Early in the morning of July 27, hundreds of Hanford workers were sent into lockdown after radiation levels in the S-Tank Farm rose above normal.

"Workers were attempting to unclog a retrieval pump.  This is a large pump that's actually in the tank.  Workers use it to retrieve or vacuum if you will waste out of the tank," said Erik Olds with the Office of River Protection. 

Shortly after, the Department of Energy formed a "Type-A Investigation" team to independently review the incident. 

The 50-page report documents their findings.

Among them, three key points: Investigators found that better planning could have prevented the accident. Second, it's unlikely the spill resulted in reported illnesses, and finally, that the accident could have been significantly worse had workers been in the area at the time.

"There's a number of issues.  They took the overall preparation of everthing what happened from the time of the spill through the reporting and investigation of the spill through, but it was pretty thourough," said Jonathan Shrader with the Energy Department's D.C. Offices. 

The report also lists a series of actions that need to be taken to ensure the event doesn't happen again and criticizes the medical response, including better documentation of medical encounters with workers.

"We're taking action based on the report that was released today, we will be developing a corrective action plan and we will address the issues in the report," Olds said.

CH2M Hill, the contractor in charge of tank farm cleanup, is also conducting their own investigation of what they could have done better.

This was the first "Type-A Investigation" on the Hanford site since a worker died there in 2004.