14 June 2010

Report Recommends Moving Forward, but Identifies a Number of Weaknesses in Beryllium Program

The report released June 2nd detailed a 4-month investigation into Hanford's program to address the health problems caused by beryllium. The metal is found residually in buildings, left over from the days when Hanford produced nuclear materials for the Manhattan Project, and causes serious health injuries such as chronic beryllium disease. Workers exposed to beryllium can develop a sensitivity to the metal, which restricts where they can work and, out of medical necessity, can force them out of jobs they may have held successfully for many years.

The report found that many buildings were inadequately marked with beryllium content, leaving workers in danger of inhaling contaminants without their knowledge. The program often failed to address changes in beryllium levels, which can occur as the dust is easily disturbed. Further flaws included insufficient medical attention for workers and a lack of diagnoses of new illnesses, two factors which inhibit efforts to understand the disease and the ability to adapt policies and treatment with this knowledge. Also, the report noted a breakdown of communication across the site that prevented standardized assessment of beryllium levels.

U.S. Department of Energy's Ines Triay emphasizes commitment to improvement and the dedication to "make sure our corrective actions not only are robust but they stay the course."

The report's provisions for the future included setting detailed standards for beryllium levels and contamination and requiring increased attention to fluctuations that can easily occur in these levels. It paid specific attention to medical treatment, urging increased analysis of new cases in order to assess and improve the protection program.

Heart of American Northwest supports the USDOE report's specific recommendations for the future and its function as a step towards increased transparency. We see the clarity and availability of the investigation as important in opening up communication. If we and the public commit to supporting change we believe we can improve the health standards for workers as part of our dedication to making Hanford a safe and rehabilitated place.

To hear KPLU's Anna King's report on chronic beryllium disease, click http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kplu/news.newsmain/article/0/1/1658583/KPLU.Local.News/Hanford.Officials.Criticized.for.Lack.of.Focus.on.Beryllium

To read the full USDOE inspection report on the Hanford beryllium program, click

To read our other posts on the beryllium program and investigation at Hanford, follow

No comments:

Post a Comment