|Local Companies | Article
published October 2, 2002|
levels are questioned
By KELLY LECKER
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission has sent inspectors to the Davis-Besse nuclear power
plant to find out how much radiation exposure was received by some
contractors who accidentally carried tiny radioactive particles out
of the plant on their clothes.
A team of six NRC inspectors
are at the plant doing their own testing and analysis because the
agency came up with a different level of radiation exposure for the
workers than the one reported by Davis-Besse.
Davis-Besse coverage, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse)
have [radiation exposure] estimates, and so does Davis-Besse," said
NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng. "It’s not that they are higher.
It’s that they are different.
"It’s not gelling together.
Unlike a hole in the reactor head, you can’t see it."
did determine some of the contractors working at the plant’s steam
generators in February inhaled radioactive particles, but the amount
of exposure isn’t known yet. Ms. Mitlyng said any inhaled particles
would have been very small, with a low amount of radioactivity. The
agency used fecal and urine samples to find out the contractors had
inhaled the particles.
The contractors unknowingly carried
tiny radioactive particles on their clothes off the site. Low levels
of contamination showed up in Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and
The NRC has been investigating why the radioactive
particles were not detected, and yesterday the agency announced it
was expanding the investigation to determine for sure the amount of
worker radiation exposure.
Certain workers were screened for
whole body counts of radiation, but the equipment that was used was
not set correctly to detect the radioactive isotopes found in the
type of particles that stuck to those workers’ clothing. Seven
workers were found to have carried the particles off the
Todd Schneider, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp.,
parent company of Davis-Besse, said the firm sent samples to a lab
last month. Results came back showing radiation exposure to the
workers was higher than the level allowed by federal regulators. But
he said that was because the sample was flawed, which was evident
because only one isotope had an elevated radiation level, when
officials expected other isotopes to be elevated too.
second sample was sent to the lab and showed there was no
overexposure, Mr. Schneider said. A third sample was sent to the lab
this week. "We do not believe there was overexposure. ... The third
set of tests will show that," he said. "We sent the flawed test
results to the NRC and explained that they were flawed."
Schneider noted that the contractors went into the steam generator
without respirators so they could work faster and have less
exposure. It is reasonable, he said, that they would inhale tiny
Ms. Mitlyng said a lot of factors go
into determining estimated levels of exposures for the workers, so
it’s easy to get different results. But the NRC wants to do its own
analysis because the agency, the company, and a lab hired to study
the levels all came up with different numbers.
investigation comes at a time when Davis-Besse is trying to get
ready to restart. The plant, located about 25 miles east of Toledo,
has been shut down since February for refueling. In March, workers
found a football-sized hold in the carbon steel reactor
Investigators determined that the corrosion was caused
by boric acid - an important component in controlling the nuclear
process - that leaked from cracked nozzles onto the head. Plant
officials made major management changes and bought a replacement
reactor head. The NRC is investigating what went wrong at the
David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the
watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists, said the only effect
the investigation might have on the plant’s restart is that it could
slow down some jobs because workers are being especially careful
with radiation exposure. "They don’t want to have to explain
anything else," he said.
(For more Davis-Besse
coverage, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse)
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