State seeks to protect Hanford nuclear plant workers from chemical exposure

FILE--In this July 9, 2014, file photo, a sign warns of radioactivity near a wind direction flag indicator at the "C" tank farm on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council on Monday, June 20, 2016, issued a list of demands to the U.S. Department of Energy and its tank farm contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions. The council is an umbrella group for 15 unions with members doing Hanford work. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Washington state wants a federal judge to issue an injunction requiring the Department of Energy and its contractor to take steps to protect workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The Tri-City Herald reports that from January through July, Hanford workers reported suspicious smells or symptoms that indicate exposure to chemical vapors.

The Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says more than 50 workers have been exposed to toxic vapors and the "culture of indifference to worker safety must end."

The state plans to make that argument during a federal hearing set for Wednesday morning in Spokane.

The agency has claimed that the plaintiffs in the case have not shown harm to Hanford workers from vapors. It has argued that symptoms like headaches are common and don't necessarily indicate exposure to vapors.

The state called that claim "astounding."

The judge also will hear arguments on DOE's motion to dismiss the state's case.

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