$32,500 Penalty Confirmed by NRC Staff

The penalty against B&W Nuclear Operations Group of Lynchburg, Va., is based on its alleged failure to have adequate instructions telling workers how to neutralize acid spills.

The staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ordered B&W Nuclear Operations Group of Lynchburg, Va., to pay a $32,500 civil penalty for its alleged failure to provide adequate instructions showing workers how to neutralize acid spills, NRC announced June 17.

The event triggering the violation happened in April 2008. According to NRC, a process operator tried to neutralize a hydrofluoric acid spill by adding sodium hydroxide, a strong base, "which reacted violently to the acid on the floor. This resulted in an injury to the operator’s eye that required medical attention," according to the agency's announcement, which said B&W had disputed the severity level of the violation and the proposed penalty.

"Although we recognize the timely and effective response by B&W staff, the injury was significant and under different circumstances, the injury could have been more serious," said Luis Reyes, NRC's Region II administrator. B&W has 20 days to pay the penalty or request a hearing.

B&W Nuclear Operations Group operates a uranium fuel fabrication plant in Lynchburg that received a good licensee performance review from NRC last September. The review covered safety operations, radiological controls, facility support, and security from June 22, 2008, through June 30, 2009, with no areas found to need improvement, although there was an emergency declaration of an Alert, the lowest NRC emergency category for nuclear fuel facilities, in July 2008. NRC says the chemical, radiological, and criticality hazards for workers at such plants are similar to hazards at enrichment plants. Fabrication plants generally pose a low risk to the public, the agency says.

B&W Nuclear Operations Group employs about 3,800 people and is part of the Babcock & Wilcox Company also based in Lynchburg.

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