Inspection Report: OAI-L-16-13

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August 2, 2016

Technetium-99 Incident at Los Alamos National Laboratory

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) operates the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE).  LANSCE is a Department of Energy national user facility, hosting scientists from universities, industry, national laboratories, and other research facilities.  NNSA’s Los Alamos Field Office is responsible for administrating the LANL contract and managing Federal activities.

On August 20, 2012, a radiological incident occurred at the LANSCE Lujan Center, in which 27 workers, their offices, and/or their personal items were exposed to technetium-99, with some of the radiological material tracked off-site.  After the incident, LANL worked with the Office of Emergency Response (Emergency Response) Radiological Assistance Program Teams to survey, assess, and decontaminate affected property and ensure that off-site contamination was characterized and remediated.  LANL officials concluded the technetium-99 contamination level did not present a health risk.  In October 2012, an NNSA Federal Accident Investigation Board (Investigation Board) reported weaknesses in the control and containment of radioactive materials and published 14 Judgments of Need (recommendations) to minimize a recurrence.  In addition, Emergency Response reviewed Headquarters-level activities and operations during emergency and recovery phases of the incident and incorporated recommendations to improve the response process in an After Action Report.  We initiated this inspection to determine if NNSA and LANL had taken corrective actions to address the recommendations made by the Investigation Board and Emergency Response concerning the technetium-99 incident at LANSCE.

We found that NNSA and LANL had developed and implemented corrective actions that addressed all except one of the Investigation Board and Emergency Response recommendations.  LANL and the Los Alamos Field Office actions closed the 14 Investigation Board recommendations, while Emergency Response actions addressed 9 out of 10 recommendations from the After Action Report.  The Office of Emergency Operations has a plan to address the remaining recommendation through an update of Department Order 151.1C, Comprehensive Emergency Management System, dated November 2, 2005.

Topic: National Security & Safety