Idaho National Laboratory experiences second on-site emergency this week

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — An employee was taken to the hospital in Idaho Falls for possible burns from a sodium fire in a building at Idaho National Laboratory.  The fire may have been caused by a sodium reaction earlier Friday morning, they said.

Source:  h/t D Reed

The unidentified employee, who works for the private Idaho Cleanup Project, was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls for evaluation of burns, the lab said in a written statement.

It happened in the Sodium Boiler Building located inside the Materials and Fuels Complex.  Ten other employees were evaluated and released by medical personnel at the site, they said.

Employees working in the immediate area of the building were evacuated. All other employees in the MFC complex were told to remain inside their buildings, they reported.

The chemical fire on Friday broke out in a building adjacent to a decommissioned, experimental reactor at the U.S. Department of Energy’s sprawling Idaho National Laboratory that is cooled by sodium, lab spokeswoman Sara Prentice said. This is the second time this week the Emergency Operation Center has been activated.

On Tuesday, 16 employees were exposed to low-level radiation from plutonium.  All 16 workers exposed to radiation at the Idaho National Laboratory were allowed to go home following the incident, which officials Wednesday said likely resulted from decades-old plutonium powder that escaped its damaged stainless-steel shell.

After a follow-up lung scan Wednesday, one worker still tested positive for radioactive material in the lungs and was receiving extra attention at the lab’s medical facility. Seven of the employees tested positive for external skin contamination, and six had positive nasal swipes.

All 16 workers will undergo weeks of testing, including urine analysis to evaluate their level of exposure. Plutonium, if it remains in the body, can cause cell damage.

“These isotopes are internal hazards; they’re not external hazards,” Dossett told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “There’s no hazard to their family members or anybody they would come into contact with.”

INL officials declined to provide details about the workers, including their genders.

The lone employee who tested positive for radioactive material in the lungs Wednesday had breathed in Americium-241, an isotope commonly found in nuclear waste. While the lung scans aren’t sensitive enough to detect plutonium, the presence of Americium-241 proves plutonium is there, too.

“It’s for sure,” Dossett said.

According to lab officials, it may be weeks before the extent of all the workers’ exposure is known.

Source: CBS News

A wildfire near Idaho National Laboratory consumed thousands of acres in August of 2011.  It caused workers to be forced to stay inside, and concerns were raised about T-17 fire as the soil is heavily contaminated.

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