The Department of Energy (DOE) has cited three Energy Department sites for nuclear safety requirements. The contractors are: Bechtel Hanford Inc., at the Hanford Site; Kaiser Hill Co., operator of the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site; and International Isotopes Idaho Inc., a subcontractor at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL).
Two of the contractors, Bechtel Hanford and Kaiser Hill, were fined a total of $123,750 for failing to adequately protect workers exposed to radioactivity.
"The Department of Energy has established clear nuclear safety procedures, and we expect these procedures to be followed," said Dr. David Michaels, 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."
Bechtel Hanford was fined $82,500 over a June 1999 incident in which three workers were exposed to airborne radioactivity after they unwrapped a "highly contaminate" piece of equipment, according to DOE.
This created an area with airborne radioactivity which was not adequately recognized, posted or controlled as required by safety procedures. Workers continued to work in the area for about 13 days without protective gear, though none appeared to have suffered any ill health effects, said DOE.
A statement released last week by Bechtel Hanford said the company "takes responsibility for this incident ... and agrees with the conclusions from DOE."
DOE also ordered a fine of $41,250 against Kaiser-Hill Co., the main cleanup contractor at the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant outside Denver.
Kaiser Hill was cited for a February 1999 event in which an employee performing decontamination and decommissioning activities received a dose of radioactivity that entered his body through a cut on his finger, according to a DOE report. An investigation revealed shortcomings in safety procedures.
Because Bechtel Hanford and Kaiser Hill took corrective steps, DOE agreed to reduce their fines.
International Isotopes Idaho Inc., a subcontractor at INEEL in southeastern Idaho, was cited but not fined after two workers were exposed to a small amount of radioactivity while they were replacing ventilation filters last July, DOE said. They were not harmed. Investigators determined the subcontractor failed to adequately plan how to protect the workers.
by Virginia Sutcliffe