Home >> Newsroom

INL News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 9, 2011
#5

NEWS MEDIA CONTACTS:
Ethan Huffman, 208-526-0660, ethan.huffman@inl.gov
Misty Benjamin, 208-526-5940, misty.benjamin@inl.gov

Update on employee exposure incident; officials available to answer questions Wednesday

Officials have concluded the emergency response to Tuesday’s radiation exposure event, but medical evaluation of exposed workers and investigation into the incident continue.

Initial body scans on 16 employees potentially exposed to radioactive materials were completed Tuesday night (initial reports inaccurately stated 17 employees were potentially exposed). The employees were offered precautionary treatment for internal radiation exposure and went home after initial scans were complete.

Today, doctors at Idaho National Laboratory’s Central Facilities Area are performing follow-up lung scans on three employees. All 16 exposed employees are receiving more detailed monitoring to determine whether they received internal exposure. These assessments rely upon biological samples that take days to collect and analyze, so it may be several weeks until monitoring determines the extent of individual doses.

INL has suspended work associated with transuranic materials handled outside of gloveboxes or hot cells at the Materials and Fuels Complex. Such work will resume after procedures have been evaluated and verified to be adequate. Additional long-term corrective actions will be established after officials conclude investigations to understand the cause of the incident.

The affected area at the Zero Power Physics Reactor has been isolated. A recovery plan will assess the level of contamination and determine a path forward to decontaminate the affected areas. External monitoring showed there was no release to the environment and the public was never in danger.

INL officials will be available Wednesday to answer media questions.

What: INL media availability
When: noon, Wednesday, Nov. 9
Where: Engineering Research Office Building, 2525 N. Fremont, Idaho Falls
Call-in number: 208-526-0005 or 800-414-2147; press 1 and enter 60005 to join the conference when the auto-attendant answers

Please note that INL is the official source for event information. Any information from other sources may be incomplete or inaccurate.

INL’s emergency Joint Information Center has been activated to respond to any questions you may have about this incident. Media and members of the public should call the phone numbers below, not your regular INL contacts.


Media Information: (208) 526-9206 Please do not call other INL contacts.
Public Information: (208) 526-5042


Follow-up news releases will be posted on INL’s website at: http://www.inl.gov/


INL News Release #4

Date: Nov. 8, 2011
Time: 6:25 p.m.

INL radiation exposure incident: Health impacts, treatment plan detailed
 
The emergency response to this radiological exposure incident has been completed. Medical treatment of the affected employees continues.

Here is the latest information:

New information:

  • Health impacts of inhaling and/or ingesting plutonium vary depending on the elemental type (isotope) and whether the contaminant becomes trapped in the body.
  • If the plutonium goes in and out of the body within a short period of time, it is unlikely to cause harm. If it is trapped — for example in the lungs — it has the potential to lead to damage to the body’s cells.
  • For this event, it has been determined by multiple medical and scientific experts that the best course of action is to offer the potentially exposed employees treatments that will expedite the elimination of the substances from the body to limit potential harm.
  • The employees will be offered treatment with intravenous fluids with calcium or zinc to bind the plutonium for elimination (chelation) from the body.
  • They will also be offered antacids to elevate the pH in the body to assist in the elimination process.
  • A determination on the amount of the exposure will not be available until the body scans are complete. It may be weeks until the extent of the exposure is known.
  • The Emergency Operations Center and the Joint Information Center will be standing down at 10:30 p.m. Media calls after this time should be directed to Ethan Huffman at 208-716-4594 or ethan.huffman@inl.gov or Misty Benjamin at 208-351-9900 or misty.benjamin@inl.gov

Background:

  • The Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) was a low-power reactor used to mock up cores for experimental purposes.
  • It was decommissioned in 1992.
  • The facility is one of the many nuclear material storage locations on the site.
  • Workers occasionally enter the facility to inventory special nuclear materials or to prepare them for transfer to other DOE facilities.
  • The Materials and Fuels Complex is located 38 miles from Idaho Falls and conducts nuclear fuels research. Approximately 800 employees work at the facility.

Information previously reported:

  • A total of 17 employees were potentially exposed to contamination.
  • Of the potentially exposed employees, six have tested positive for contamination based on external surveying.
  • All 17 employees are currently undergoing full body scans at the Central Facilities Area Medical Facility which can take up to an hour per person.
  • External air sampling and radiological surveys indicate no contamination has been detected outside of the Zero Power Physics Reactor facility. Contrary to some media reports, there is no leak of contamination outside the facility.
  • All of those affected were employees of Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA).
  • State, county and tribal officials have been notified.
  • At approximately 1 p.m. today, employees were conducting work inside the decommissioned Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) when a container was opened for normal scheduled work resulting in worker exposure to plutonium.
  • 17 employees at the Materials and Fuels Complex have been transported to the Central Facilities Medical Center on the INL site for further evaluation.
  • The employees underwent initial decontamination at MFC.
  • There is no evidence of release of contamination outside the facility.
  • There is no risk to the public or environment.

Please note that INL is the official source for event information. Any information from other sources may be incomplete or inaccurate. 

Press Release #3

Date: Nov. 8, 2011
Time: 5:20 p.m.

INL employees receive radiological exposure at Materials and Fuels Complex; no risk to the public
 
Emergency personnel continue to respond to a radiological exposure incident on the INL site.

Here is the latest information:

New information:

  • A total of 17 employees were potentially exposed to contamination.
  • Of the potentially exposed employees, six have tested positive for contamination based on external surveying.
  • All 17 employees are currently undergoing full body scans at the Central Facilities Area Medical Facility which can take up to an hour per person.
  • External air sampling and radiological surveys indicate no contamination has been detected outside of the Zero Power Physics Reactor facility. Contrary to some media reports, there is no leak of contamination outside the facility.
  • All of those affected were employees of Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA).
  • A thorough investigation of the event is under way.

Background:

  • The Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) was a low-power reactor used to mock up cores for experimental purposes.
  • It was decommissioned in 1992.
  • The facility is one of the many nuclear material storage locations on the site.
  • Workers occasionally enter the facility to inventory special nuclear materials or to prepare them for transfer to other DOE facilities.
  • The Materials and Fuels Complex is located 38 miles from Idaho Falls and conducts nuclear fuels research. Approximately 800 employees work at the facility.

Information previously reported:

  • INL emergency responders are responding to the incident.
  • State, county and tribal officials have been notified.
  • At approximately 1 p.m. today, employees were conducting work inside the decommissioned Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) when a container was opened for normal scheduled work resulting in worker exposure to plutonium.
  • 17 employees at the Materials and Fuels Complex have been transported to the Central Facilities Medical Center on the INL site for further evaluation.
  • The employees underwent initial decontamination at MFC.
  • There is no evidence of release of contamination outside the facility.
  • There is no risk to the public or environment.

Please note that INL is the official source for event information. Any information from other sources may be incomplete or inaccurate.

INL’s emergency Joint Information Center at the Engineering Research Office Building, 2525 Fremont Ave., Idaho Falls, has been activated to respond to any questions you may have about this incident. Media and members of the public should call the phone numbers below, not your regular INL contacts.


Media Information: (208) 526-9206 Please do not call other INL contacts.
Public Information: (208) 526-5042


Follow-up news releases will be posted on INL’s website at: http://www.inl.gov/


Press Release #2

Date: Nov. 8, 2011
Time: 3:10 p.m. 

INL employees receive radiological exposure at Materials and Fuels Complex

At approximately 1 p.m. today, Idaho National Laboratory emergency personnel began responding to a radiological contamination event involving at least 17 employees at the Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) on the INL Site.

The employees were conducting work inside the decommissioned Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) when a container was opened for normal scheduled work resulting in worker exposure to plutonium.

All 17 employees have been transported to the Central Facilities Medical Center on the INL site for further evaluation. The employees underwent initial decontamination at MFC.

There is no evidence of a release of contamination outside the facility. There is no risk to the public or environment.

Please note that INL is the official source for event information. Any information from other sources may be incomplete or inaccurate.

INL’s emergency Joint Information Center at the Engineering Research Office Building, 2525 Fremont Ave., Idaho Falls, has been activated to respond to any questions you may have about this incident. Media and members of the public should call the phone numbers below, not your regular INL contacts.


Media Information: (208) 526-9206 Please do not call other INL contacts.
Public Information: (208) 526-5042


Follow-up news releases will be posted on INL’s website at: http://www.inl.gov/


Press Release #1

Department of Energy’s Emergency Operations Center is gathering information about a reported incident at the Idaho Site

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated and is gathering information about a reported radiological exposure incident at the Materials and Fuels Complex on the INL site.

When events such as this are reported, DOE activates its EOC as a standard practice to gather information and coordinate site-wide incident responders, as needed.  This news release is being issued to alert you of the reported incident and the EOC activation. Based on the information obtained so far, there is no risk to the public.

INL personnel are responding to investigate the incident; and state, county and tribal officials are being notified. News release updates will be issued when more information is available. Additional details on the nature of the incident and a preliminary impact assessment will be provided to the media and the public as soon as they are available and confirmed.

Please note that information about this event reported by unofficial sources may be incomplete or inaccurate.

INL’s emergency Joint Information Center at the Engineering Research Office Building, 2525 Fremont Ave., Idaho Falls, has been activated to respond to any questions you may have about this incident. Media and members of the public should call the phone numbers below, not your regular INL contacts.


Media Information: (208) 526-9206  Please do not call other INL contacts
Public Information: (208) 526-5042


Follow-up News Releases will be posted on INL’s website at: http://www.inl.gov/

    Printer Friendly
    Department of energy

    DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
    DOE-Idaho Office
    Battelle