The Department of Energy (DOE) last week cited the MOTA Corp. of Columbia, S.C., for violating nuclear safety requirements at the department's Argonne National Laboratory East near Chicago.
MOTA Corp. is a subcontractor of the University of Chicago, which operates the Argonne laboratory for the department.
The violation involved a failure to adhere to procedures for the handling and management of materials in a controlled area of the site.
"All subcontractors on DOE sites are required to follow the safety requirements established for that site, and we hold them just as accountable for nuclear safety as we do our operating contractors," said Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels. "The safety requirements are designed to protect workers and the public, and it is essential that they are followed."
MOTA Corp. was first accused of violating nuclear safety requirements as a result of a March 12, 2000 incident in which a MOTA project manager took more than 1,300 pounds of aluminum home in his personal vehicle without permission and without monitoring for potential contamination.
The half-inch wide, 3-inch thick aluminum strips ranging from 2 to 8 feet in length were originally part of the exterior shell of an accelerator that was being dismantled.
They were stored in a controlled area at the lab, where the accelerator formerly operated.
An Argonne National Laboratory building manager notified security when he noticed a pile of aluminum strips that had been placed near a dock area; it is alleged that an employee subsequently put the aluminum in his vehicle and drove home.
The material was recovered and surveyed.
DOE procedures require radiation protection personnel to test material that may be contaminated before it can be moved off the premises.
In this instance, the material was determined not to be contaminated only after radiation protection personnel tested it while it was still in the project manager's vehicle at his home.
DOE has categorized this a "Level II" safety violation on a three-step scale on which Level I violations pose the greatest potential impact to worker or public safety.
Although worker or public safety were not in danger in this instance, the project manager ignored DOE and Argonne National Laboratory safety requirements when he took the material from the lab to his residence without permission and without having radiation protection personnel confirm it was not contaminated.
The employee no longer has access to the DOE site, and he has been suspended from his job pending further investigation of the incident.