Attorney to take over state's Hanford cleanup program
NEAR RICHLAND, WA - Hanford union workers tell NBC Right Now there was an explosion at the plutonium finishing plant cleanup site weeks ago, but the event wasn't shared with the public.

The Hanford union representative says it happened when workers were cutting some pipe as part of the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant.

The union representative wants to remain anonymous and says workers are concerned management isn't putting worker safety first.

"Having a pipe explode at probably the most contaminated facility in the United States. This is one of the most hazardous buildings in the U.S." said the Union representative.

Workers describe the explosion as a spark then flames that shot out of a pipe and a loud bang that vibrated the pipe and the worker.
We're told it happened two weeks ago when workers were cutting a pipe inside the Plutonium Finishing Plant. PFP is where the plutonium was manufactured for one of the atomic bombs dropped in World War II.

"Management continues to call it a small pop even though the workers say no this thing was a big, loud bang like a shot gun blast," said the union representative.

CHPRC is the contractor managing the PFP site cleanup.

Workers say they think the contractor is playing down the explosion and possible safety concerns to protect themselves from fines and work delays.

The union representative says if the pipe broke, workers would've inhaled plutonium particles that could have possibly deadly health effects.

"They care more about their milestone being met, getting this facility torn down in a timely fashion, than any of the concerns that are brought up. People bring up concerns and they fall on deaf ears, especially at this facility," the union representative said. 
Management issued a stop work order for cutting pipes at PFP But workers don't think enough is being done to protect them when they get sent back.
"It's like they're dumbing it down because if this becomes a big concern, then they're not going to be able to remove the pipe in a timely manor. Well, that's not the concern. I could care less about your time frame and how much money you're going to make when you get that pipe out. My concern is the people cutting the pipe in the first place and that doesn't seem to be their concern," said the union representative.

The union representative says management wants to keep experienced workers quiet.
"PFP is not wanting to use experienced individuals anymore because we're bringing up too many concerns in this plant. They want to bring in the guy that's not going to ask any questions and they've started to do so," the union representative said.

The PFP contractor is managed by CH2M Hill.

CH2M Hill provided this statement to NBC Right Now:  

"CH2M HILL’s goal across the Hanford Site is safe and compliant work. We are investigating what occurred on Thursday, April 17. While cutting a pipe, employees reported hearing a loud bang and seeing a small, orange-reddish flame emit from the end of the pipe. Employees responded safely and appropriately after the event occurred.

The pipe being cut was sealed within a containment enclosure at the time.  Employees did not observe any pressurization of the bag and no sign of damage.

No employees were hurt, and post job surveys did not detect any spread of contamination. We are in the process of a thorough examination of the pipe to determine what led up to this incident. Employees at the Plutonium Finishing Plant have stopped using mechanical cutting methods until a cause is determined and we can prevent future recurrence."

The Department of Energy provided NBC Right Now this statement:

"The Department of Energy is overseeing the contractor's response and will continue to evaluate their investigation into the cause of the event and corrective actions."

Recommended for you