Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 31 No. 25
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June 18, 2020

Hanford, SRS Report New COVID-19 Cases; Sites Slowly Get Back to Work

By Wayne Barber

The Energy Department’s Hanford Site in Washington state has confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 among its workforce since last Friday, which would bring its total to 15.

In addition, DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina has confirmed its 36th case as of Thursday. Twenty-three of those workers have recovered and returned to work.

The notices from Savannah River and Hanford were posted within the past 48 hours on the websites for the respective DOE complexes.

One of the two Hanford employees has not been on-site since June 5 and the office building where the person worked has been disinfected, according to a website update. The other individual has not been on-site since March 18. The website update did not include any details on what entity employs the individuals at Hanford.

Savannah River officials did not release any details on the latest person to test positive there.

In addition to being two of the largest DOE nuclear facilities, the Savannah River and Hanford sites have been particularly diligent about posting coronavirus updates since the health crisis started more than three months ago.

There are currently 37 “active” COVID-19 cases in the DOE Environmental Management complex, with zero deaths, according to the department.

Both Hanford, a former plutonium production complex, and SRS, which has operations for both DOE’s Office of Environmental Management and semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), employ about 11,000 people. Most personnel at the two locations have either worked remotely or collected paid leave from late March until late May, as DOE sought to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Work at those sites, and Energy Department facilities around the nation, has largely been reduced to mission-critical operations.

Both sites are in Phase 1 of remobilization, in which the Energy Department brings back the first groups of employees for high-priority or low-risk work. There are four phases, with Phase 3 involving a return to near-normal staffing levels on-site.

To date, 15 of 16 Environmental Management sites have begun remobilization. The Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) site in update New York is currently in Phase 0, or planning, according to DOE. Most physical remediation operations wrapped up there last year.

Hanford DOE Manager Brian Vance announced Thursday that the site will remain in Phase 1 at roughly the same on-site workforce level through the week starting June 22. Phase 1 focuses on callbacks of individuals doing high-priority or low-risk jobs best done on-site.

“The work you are doing in support of the Hanford site cleanup, whether at home or on site, is important to our community, the region, and the nation,” Vance said in the site-wide memo.

One Environmental Management site, the Idaho National Laboratory, has advanced to Phase 2, which involves resuming high-priority, medium risk activities where physical distance can be maintained.