Originally created 01/31/98

Hanford officials remove vial



RICHLAND, Wash. -- Workers removed a vial of white powder believed to be a powerful explosive from beneath a laboratory building at the government's Hanford nuclear complex.

The discovery of the vial Wednesday forced the evacuation of the laboratory and prompted a Washington State University branch to cut classes short.

Late Thursday, crews dropped the plastic medicine bottle labeled "picric acid" into a bucket of water to neutralize it, Energy Department spokesman Guy Schein said. The vial was believed to contain about 2 ounces of the explosive substance.

Schein said the department is analyzing the contents and investigating how the vial got into the crawl space in the basement.

People living outside the 560-square-mile complex were never in danger, officials said.

Hanford made plutonium for nuclear weapons for more than 40 years. It now contains the nation's largest volume of radioactive waste from nuclear weapons.