Savannah River Nuclear Solutions fined for TRU hand prick

16 August 2011

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions has agreed to pay a $243,750 fine levied by the US Department of Energy's office of health, safety and security for safety violations that led to an employee puncturing himself with a sharp object contaminated with Pu-238 in June 2010.

The incident occurred in the Savannah River Site F-TRU remediation enclosure within the F-Canyon facility. In the process, technicians open the exterior of transuranic waste drums and transfer the contents into new packages. Technicians were required to identify holes in the inner canister by inserting flags into the holes. On 14 June 2010, it appears one of these flags pierced a technician's hand, imparting a preliminary whole body effect dose of between 15-45 rem, and between 497-1491 rem equivalent dose to the bone surface.

The DOE OHS office cited SRNS not only for that specific radiological contamination incident, which exceeded maximum annual dose rates (5 rems effective and 50 rems of internal exposure) but also for general failures of procedures and training that the DOE OHS argued enabled it to happen.

In particular, the DOE OHS report said that neither the SRNS radiological control manual or TRU drum repackaging operating procedure did not address the specific hazards of using survey flags to indicate holes. The operating procedure did not explain how to insert the flags, and DOE OHS staff said that at least five different methods were found. Also, it found that the flags were cut down from their original length, introducing a new hazard of a sharp edge. Technicians were not formally trained on the procedure, partly because they were incorrectly labelled as 'technicans', involved in equipment maintenance, which had reduced training requirements. Workers were briefed on Pu-238 hazards, but not all attended, and attendance was not documented. In addition, a management training programme was not fully carried out. Problems that emerged with the TRU drum work were not corrected. Recommendations from a periodic internal review were not acted upon.

In a statement, SRNS said: "SRNS has put into place corrective actions to address the circumstances that led to the injury and has safely remediated more than 400 containers since the event. SRNS does not dispute the the proposed violations cited and have concluded there are no substantive errors in the Preliminary Notice of Violation."

SRNS LLC is a contractor consortium that manages the site on behalf of the US DOE. Its parent companies are Fluor, Newport News Nuclear (the Newport News shipbuilding division of Huntingdon Ingalls Industries) and Honeywell International.

FilesReactor-by-reactor Fukushima Daiichi restoration progress summary as of 19 August, from JAIF
Fukushima Daiichi parameters as of 11 August by JANTI

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