The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, July 12, 2002

USEC workers to stand down to talk about safety lapses
Today’s brief stand-down is ‘a communication issue’ on worker lapses that were described as fairly minor by the NRC.

By Joe Walker

Managers and workers at the Paducah uranium enrichment plant will take time out today to talk about what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls "fairly minor" radiation-protection lapses that do not threaten workers or the public.

Although workers regularly undergo radiological training, the brief "stand-down" is the first of its type since the mid-1990s at the USEC-run plant, said Public Affairs Manager Georgann Lookofsky. All managers have the go-ahead today to conduct meetings, but the focus is on operations and maintenance personnel who spent considerable time in radiological areas, she said.

"It's another way to communicate to our employees and bring attention to an issue that we believe is important," Lookofsky said. "It's one of several actions we're taking, because we've identified negative trends in worker performance."

NRC spokesman Jan Strasma said USEC responded after its senior managers met July 5 with commission officials to discuss the latest results of an ongoing inspection.

Strasma said he did not have details of the preliminary findings but characterized them as "fairly minor" and not posing a health or safety hazard to workers or the public.

He said specifics will be documented in an inspection report in the next couple of months. Lookofsky confirmed that several problems noted in June included housekeeping and lax worker radiation-control practices.

There are strict government regulations covering procedures and requiring protective clothing in areas contaminated with radiation.

She called today's action "a communication issue rather than training."

The plant has many radiological areas because of current enrichment work and past handling of spent nuclear fuel and weapons parts.

Despite the problems, the average worker at the 1,500-employee plant last year had less than 0.1 percent of the NRC radiation-exposure standard for nuclear workers, she said.