DOE Goes Nuclear over Plutonium-Punctured Worker's Contamination

DOE issued a $243,750 civil penalty to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions after a worker received a hand puncture from a sharp object contaminated with plutonium-238.

The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC (SRNS) for a June 14, 2010, incident that violated DOE's radiation protection and nuclear safety regulations, and has proposed a $243,750 civil penalty.

The violations are associated with an incident that occurred while an SRNS worker was performing waste remediation activities in the F-TRU remediation enclosure located within the F-Canyon Facility at DOE's Savannah River Site, located near Aiken, S.C. As a result, the worker received a hand puncture from a sharp object contaminated with plutonium-238, which resulted in internal contamination in excess of the regulatory limit. After the incident, SRNS and the DOE Savannah River Operations Office each conducted formal accident investigations to identify the root and contributing causes of this event and develop corrective actions to prevent recurrence of similar events in the future.

The PNOV cites four Severity Level II violations of DOE radiation protection and nuclear safety regulations in the areas of occupational dose limits, written procedures and work processes, training and qualification, and quality assurance. SRNS is cited for failure to comply with 10 C.F.R. Part 835, Occupational Radiation Protection and 10 C.F.R. Part 830, Nuclear Safety Management.

The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes the Energy Department to undertake regulatory actions against contractors for violations of its nuclear safety requirements. DOE's Enforcement Program encourages contractors to identify and correct nuclear safety deficiencies at an early stage, before they contribute to or result in more serious events.

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