Washington State Nuclear Alert
RICHLAND, Wash. -- Emergency crews found no evidence of radiation leaks at the nation's largest nuclear dump Wednesday after a false alarm triggered evacuations and a lock-down of hundreds of employees, spokespersons for the site said.
The alarm went off in an area of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation where spent reactor fuel is stored in liquid-filled basins overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy and a team of private contractors led by California-based Fluor Corp.
"All indications that we have right now is that this was a false alarm. We are still waiting for some survey information to come back, but all reports are negative so far," said Kim Ballinger, spokeswoman for the site.
Emergency workers blamed "instrument malfunction" for the alarm, which is designed to warn of any airborne radiation release at the Hanford site in rural Eastern Washington state near Richland.
As a precaution, officials briefly evacuated a 20-mile stretch of the nearby Columbia River, which contains no towns or significant settlements. Hundreds of plant workers were quarantined until they could be screened for contamination.
The complex produced plutonium for the nation's first atomic bombs under the Manhattan Project 60 years ago and has stored a variety of nuclear waste since then.
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