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Wildfires Near Hanford Nuclear Facility All But Out; No Radioactive Contamination Detected

Aired June 30, 2000 - 2:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wildfires consuming hundreds of thousands of acres across southern Washington State near the Hanford Nuclear complex are all but out today. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has been surveying the damage from the wildfires burning near the Hanford facility outside Richland, Washington, and he says those fires are now contained. Plutonium and other radioactive materials are stored at Hanford. Richardson says there's no evidence of any radioactive contamination.

CNN's Rusty Dornin joins us from Richland, Washington -- Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, there are no active firefighting efforts right now, no flames and very little smoke. And in some areas, firefighters are actually getting down on their hands and knees and testing the soil to see if the hot spots -- if there's any potential of flare-ups should the winds come up.

Now, the fear all along here, as with Los Alamos, has been that the fire could get too close to the sites and there might possible releases when there is contaminated soil or vegetation that would burn. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson inspected the area today. And while he said there are never absolutes in situations like this, they're very optimistic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: We are satisfied that there, at this time, are no radiological releases. But, again, in the next few days, I think as the representative from the state agency mentioned, with the EPA, with the state, with our own people, we're going to be -- make sure that absolutely nothing like that happened.

This is the facility with the highest volume of radioactive waste and material in the United States. And it -- as you know, it has all forms. I believe that our efforts have been successful in protecting those materials. We have to be absolutely sure. I think our plan worked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DORNIN: Now, it's not that the federal government doesn't admit that there is contaminated soil and some vegetation. And one of the state officials said that they do know that there are some -- there is some contaminated sage brush and soil that's located more in the center of these sites that came nowhere near the fire. And they say there was never any danger, they feel, that these things would burn because the particles are so heavy in this radioactive material that they would settle before any wind could pick them up and move them.

However, the state, which is an independent monitoring agency, as well as other independent contractors, are also monitoring and will be for several days to make sure there was absolutely no radioactive releases.

But as far as things look now, it look like the fire has been contained and they're just mopping up.

Rusty Dornin, reporting live, Richland, Washington.

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