Wildfire spreads onto Hanford nuclear site

Wildfire spreads onto Hanford nuclear site

17 August 2007

published by blog.oregonlive.com

RICHLAND — High winds pushed a wildfire from private land onto the southwest portion of Hanford nuclear reservation Thursday, forcing all but essential employees home from the site and leaving firefighters scrambling to stop the blaze from spreading farther.

Erik Olds, a spokesman for U.S. Department of Energy, said Thursday evening that the fire, at the time, had not posed “any imminent threats to facilities or waste sites.”

“We have confirmed that the fire has not burned over any waste sites,” he said.

He said firefighters from five counties and other agencies were working to contain the blaze, which had burned more than 5,000 acres.

Olds said it was not known how many square miles the fire had covered on Hanford’s 586 square miles.

“We don’t believe there have been any radiological releases, and we are monitoring,” he said. “We’ve not seen any elevated levels of radiation.”

The fire started along State Highway 241 north of Sunnyside, about 40 miles southeast of Yakima, and burned onto Hanford Reach National Monument. High winds pushed the fire across State Highway 240 onto the nuclear site.

The fire was burning between the highway and a section of the Hanford site where underground tanks hold highly radioactive waste. Olds said the tanks typically are 10 to 15 feet underground.

A section of Highway 240 temporarily was closed.

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