Radioactive rabbit caught near U.S. nuclear site
The Washington State Department of Health workers have been searching for contaminated droppings after a radioactive rabbit was caught north of Richland in southeastern Washington, home to the Hanford nuclear site, local media reported Friday.
According to Tri-City Herald, the rabbit, which was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium, caught the health authorities' attention because it was close enough to the nuclear site's boundaries to potentially come in contact with the public, Xinhua reported.
Earl Fordham, regional director of the Office of Radiation Protection, said that the survey on Thursday turned up no contaminated droppings in areas accessible to the public.
According to Washington Closure Hanford, an Energy Department contractor cleaning up the site, the contamination was possibly from a building used for testing highly radioactive materials in producing nuclear weapons and it was demolished about a month ago.
The rabbit might have been sipping water sprayed during demolition, the company said. Washington Closure said the company found the contaminated rabbit droppings last week with the farthest still within an area closed to the public.
Liquid waste with radioactive salts was discharged into the ground near central Hanford during the Cold War. Rabbits and other animals were attracted to the salts and spread radioactive droppings across as much as 13.7 square miles (some 35 million square meters) before the waste sites were sealed to keep out animals in 1969.
Hanford currently is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup. Last year, 33 contaminated animals or animal materials such as droppings were found on the site.