WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) to Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA) for two radiological incidents which occurred at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2011 that violated the Department’s nuclear safety and radiation protection regulations. The PNOV proposes a civil penalty of $412,500 for the violations.
The violations are associated with the August 30, 2011, elevated extremity dose at the Hot Fuel Examination Facility (HFEF) and the November 8, 2011, plutonium contamination event at the Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) facility at the laboratory’s Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC). The HFEF event resulted in a worker receiving an unplanned dose to his right hand, and the ZPPR event resulted in the contamination of 16 workers.
The PNOV cites four Severity Level I violations and one Severity Level III violation of 10 C.F.R. Part 830, Nuclear Safety Management, and 10 C.F.R. Part 835, Occupational Radiation Protection. Severity Level I violations involve actual or high potential for adverse impact on worker safety. A Severity Level III violation is less serious but, if left uncorrected, could lead to a more serious concern. The PNOV cites violations in the areas of quality improvement, work processes, training, air monitoring and recordkeeping.
Prior to these events, BEA recognized that improvement was needed in work management and radiological control. In early 2011, all radiological work at MFC was stopped and gradually resumed over a 3-month period as BEA reviewed, modified, and approved work control documents; trained the workforce on the new procedures; and validated readiness to perform work. BEA also initiated continuous improvement programs to correct weaknesses in these areas, but the implementation was not sufficiently mature to prevent either of the events. Since the events, BEA has established and implemented additional corrective actions to address deficiencies identified in its internal evaluations of the events, a DOE Accident Investigation Board report on the ZPPR event, and the violations identified in the PNOV. In April 2012, BEA suspended work at MFC for six weeks to focus on implementing some of these corrective actions, including conducting oral boards to verify employee technical competence and alignment with company values, expectations, and standards.
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.
Additional details on this and other enforcement actions are available from the Office of Enforcement and Oversight at www.hss.doe.gov/enforce.