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Senators urge quick action for Hanford workers

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Patty Murray (D-Washington), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) are urging Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to take immediate action to implement new worker safety standards dealing with the repeated release of vapors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The tersely worded letter to Moniz came on the heels of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health releasing its findings after a months-long review to address chemical vapor exposures at the tank farms at Hanford. NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and operates independently of the Department of Energy.

NIOSH proposed changes in every area it assessed including exposure assessment, exposure control, safety and health management and medical. The review included all workers and organizations that work within or near the tank farms.

“The NIOSH report confirms the Department of Energy is falling woefully short at protecting workers at Hanford from dangerous chemical vapors, which have been a serious problem for decades,” Wyden said. “NIOSH calls on DOE to stop relying on stop-gap measures and to actually take workers’ chemical concerns seriously.”

Wyden said that the ball is now in DOE’s court.

“I am going to be working with my colleagues from Washington state – Senators Murray and Cantwell – to make sure DOE finally fixes these problems and doesn’t put this report on the shelf with all the others that have taken DOE to task for not protecting workers at Hanford,” he said in a prepared statement.

The letter to Moniz states that it’s critical that the department take “swift and definitive actions” to implement the recommendations.

More than 60 workers have undergone medical examinations for possible chemical vapor exposure at the tank farms since spring, according to the Tri-City Herald.

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