WASHINGTON, DC - The Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) to the Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle) for nuclear safety violations at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Battelle is the managing and operating contractor for PNNL in Richland, Washington.
The PNOV today issued a series of violations related to two radiological events that occurred at PNNL during the last year. In December 2006, an airborne release of plutonium from a glovebox in the Radiochemical Processing Laboratory occurred as a result of a split in a vacuum exhaust line caused by an inappropriate modification to the vacuum system. In June 2007, a leaking sealed plutonium source used for experimental activities resulted in offsite contamination due to ineffective implementation of controls to ensure safe handling and source integrity. Violations include failures to maintain adequate procedures; follow operational and radiological procedures; adequately control radiological sources; implement an effective assessment program; and effectively correct identified nuclear safety problems. The PNOV also included violations related to a programmatic deficiency in the Battelle independent assessment program.
The proposed civil penalty of $288,750 is based on the significance of the violations, yet reflects substantial mitigation granted by the Department due to corrective actions taken by Battelle to address the issues and prevent recurrence. Under the Atomic Energy Act provisions applicable to contracts entered into prior to the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Battelle is statutorily exempt from the civil penalties associated with nuclear safety enforcement at PNNL for violations occurring at the time of the events. Although the events resulted in uptakes of plutonium by workers, the resulting exposures were well below the Department's occupational exposure limits.
The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes the Energy Department to undertake regulatory actions against contractors for violations of its nuclear safety requirements. The Enforcement Program encourages Departmental 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 at the Office of Enforcement.
Megan Barnett, (202) 586-4940