In its report on the November 8 mishap at the Idaho National Laboratory, the U.S. Energy Department’s Office of Health, Safety and Security said the accident could have been avoided had the lab and Battelle paid more attention to well-documented safety risks posed by the plutonium fuel plates and taken greater precautions. The group also found the lab erred in not activating its emergency plan sooner after the accident, a delay that may have compromised medical treatment of the workers.
Sixteen workers were exposed to low-level plutonium radiation when a container holding a plutonium fuel plate was opened in the process of preparing the material for shipment to another facility. Subsequent inspections found that a layer of stainless steel cladding that envelopes the spent nuclear fuel inside the container was defective.
The exposed workers are all employees of laboratory contractor Battelle Energy Alliance.
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