Radioactive rabbit trapped near Richland, Wash.

Tri-City HeraldNovember 5, 2010 

Washington Department of Health workers searched but didn't find contaminated droppings from a radioactive rabbit that was caught at Hanford just north of Richland, Wash.

Contaminated animals occasionally are found at the nuclear reservation, but more often they are in the center of Hanford, far from town. The rabbit trapped at the 300 Area caught the Department of Health's attention because it was close enough to the site's boundaries to potentially come in contact with the public, such as if it had been caught by a dog or if its droppings were deposited in an area open to the public.

An afternoon of surveying on Thursday turned up no contaminated droppings in areas accessible to the public, said Earl Fordham, the department's regional director of the Office of Radiation Protection. Washington Closure Hanford, the Department of Energy contractor cleaning up Hanford in the 300 Area, found the contaminated rabbit droppings last week, said company spokesman Todd Nelson. Several rabbits have been trapped since then and one of them was found to be highly contaminated internally with radioactive cesium, Fordham said.

Washington Closure has narrowed the area of possible contamination to the 327 Building. It was used during the Cold War for testing highly radioactive materials, particularly fuel elements and cladding that were irradiated at Hanford reactors as part of plutonium production for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

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