False alarm prompts Hanford workers to briefly take cover, shelter in place

200 West Pump Treat 01

RICHLAND, Wash. — A reported emergency Thursday at the Hanford Site triggered an alert for employees to take action for their safety. It was a false alarm, site representatives say.

Workers told KAPP-KVEW they received a notice via computer shortly before noon directing them to take cover and shelter in place.

A potential emergency was said to have happened in the 200 West area of Hanford, located near the center of the site​​​​​​, which spans nearly 600 square miles.

KAPP-KVEW reached out to media and communications personnel at the nuclear reservation and learned a “high chlorine alarm” went off but there was no actual release of chlorine.

Bruce Drake with the Department of Energy said the alarm sounded at the 283-West water treatment facility. A response team went to check it and determined there was no release.

“Site personnel are returning to their normal duties,” said Drake.

During a chlorine alarm, employees are told to move upwind of the facility, according to the Department of Energy. A ‘take cover’ at Hanford means employees should go inside the nearest building, stay inside and await instructions. Personnel in vehicles in the field are to drive with ventilation off to the nearest suitable facility and segregate from others inside. Workers are trained to remain in a ‘take cover’ until they’re released from the protective action.

Hanford produced plutonium for America’s defense program, creating a massive amount of radioactive waste. Buildings involved in the site’s original mission have been and are being decontaminated and demolished. Thousands of employees are involved in the structural and environmental cleanup.