INL News Release
Jan. 18, 2012

Ethan Huffman, 208-526-0660, 208-716-4594,
Misty Benjamin, 208-526-5940, 208-351-9900,

INL Laboratory Director Statement on Final Accident Investigation Report on November Employee Exposure Incident

IDAHO FALLS, ID — The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Health, Safety and Security (HSS) released today its final investigation report on a November accident at Idaho National Laboratory which exposed 16 employees to radioactive contamination. The report can be found on the HSS website at

"We aim to demonstrate the highest levels of safety systems and processes each and every day, and we set exceptionally high standards for protecting our employees. While we deeply regret that this incident occurred, we have an opportunity and an obligation moving forward to improve our safety processes and training programs and to better understand the hazards of our work," INL Laboratory Director John Grossenbacher said.

"From the time of this accident, INL immediately stopped work in the area, provided treatment to and regularly monitored the affected employees, implemented a thorough decontamination process inside the facility and began robust reviews and analyses of work procedures and safety systems. Earlier this month, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Peter Lyons met with managers and staff at INL to discuss the Department of Energy's and INL's commitment to the safety of its nuclear workers and facilities. In the coming weeks, INL will be closely reviewing this report and its recommendations, along with completing an internal assessment of the incident, to develop an aggressive action plan to improve our safety procedures and prevent this type of incident from occurring again."

Background Information

The 16 employees involved in the accident have been continuously evaluated and treated by INL medical professionals. Fourteen of the 16 employees have returned to full duties including radiological work. Two employees have returned to nonradiological work pending completion of their radiation dose estimate.

Immediately following the accident, INL stopped work in the facility, monitored and reported no findings of contamination outside the facility, worked closely with the Department of Energy to investigate the cause of the event, and began a thorough decontamination process inside the facility. Today, work remains stopped inside the facility.

Following the accident, the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, under the requirements of DOE Order 225.1B, requested that the Office of Health, Safety and Security appoint an accident investigation board to determine the causes of the accident.

Timeline of Events

On Nov. 8, 2011, 16 employees working inside the decommissioned Zero Power Physics Reactor were exposed to plutonium while packaging fuel plates for shipment. INL stopped work in the facility, provided treatment to affected employees, monitored and reported no findings of contamination outside the facility, and began a thorough decontamination process inside the facility.

• On Nov. 10, 2011, a 10-member investigation team from DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Security and the Idaho Operations Office was appointed to determine the causes of the accident.

• On Nov. 14, 2011, the investigation team arrived in Idaho and began its analysis.

• On Dec. 16, 2011, the investigation concluded in Idaho and the team returned to Washington, D.C., to finalize the report.

• On Jan. 18, 2012, the final report was published on the HSS website.

INL is one of the DOE's 10 multiprogram national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE's strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation's leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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