Environment News Service

AmeriScan: May 26, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, May 26, 2000 (ENS) - The DOE has cited three of its nuclear site contractors for exposing workers to radiation. Bechtel Hanford, Inc., the contractor at the Hanford Site in Washington state, was fined $82,500 for exposing three workers to airborne radioactivity in June 1999. Workers unwrapped a contaminated filter press in a transfer bay without using appropriate precautions. The bay was not posted as a radioactive hazard, and workers continued to access the bay for about 13 days without required respiratory protection. None of the workers had measurable increases in radioactive contamination.

At the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site outside Denver, Colorado, a worker was exposed to plutonium and americium through a cut on his finger. The Kaiser Hill Company, LLC was fined $41,250 for the February 1999 event involving an employee performing decontamination and decommissioning work. The worker received an estimated dose of 65 rem, which exceeds the DOE’s exposure limit of 50 rem. The department found that Kaiser Hill managers failed to take appropriate safety precautions and allowed a lone worker to dismantle a large glove box, a violation of operating procedures. International Isotopes Idaho, Inc., a subcontractor at the DOE’s Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in southeastern Idaho, was cited but not fined after two workers were exposed to a small amount of radioactivity while replacing ventilation filters in July 1999. "The Department of Energy has established clear nuclear safety procedures, and we expect these procedures to be followed," said Dr. David Michaels, the DOE’s assistant secretary for Environment, Safety and Health. "Although not every violation of safety procedures results in harm to workers or the public, we demand that our contractors adhere to the rules, so that serious accidents can be prevented."

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