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Radiological exposure incident reported at INL site

November 8, 2011

UPDATE 5:20 p.m. — A total of 17 Battelle Energy Alliance employees were potentially exposed to low-levels of contamination. Of the potentially exposed employees, six have tested positive for low-levels of contamination based on external surveying.

All 17 employees are currently undergoing full body scans at the Central Facilities Area Medical Facility which can take up to an hour per person.

External air sampling and radiological surveys indicate no contamination has been detected outside of the Zero Power Physics Reactor facility.

A thorough investigation of the event is under way.

The Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) was a low-power reactor used to mock up cores for experimental purposes. It was decommissioned in 1992.

The facility is one of the many nuclear material storage locations on the site. Workers occasionally enter the facility to inventory special nuclear materials or to prepare them for transfer to other DOE facilities.

The Materials and Fuels Complex is located 38 miles from Idaho Falls and conducts nuclear fuels research. Approximately 800 employees work at the facility.

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UPDATE 3:10 p.m. — At approximately 1 p.m. today, Idaho National Laboratory emergency personnel began responding to a radiological contamination event involving at least 17 employees at the Materials and Fuels Complex on the INL Site.

The employees were conducting work inside the decommissioned Zero Power Physics Reactor when a container was opened for normal scheduled work resulting in low-level worker exposure to plutonium.

All 17 employees have been transported to the Central Facilities Medical Center on the INL site for further evaluation. The employees underwent initial decontamination at MFC.

There is no evidence of a release of contamination outside the facility. There is no risk to the public or environment.

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Original release 2:46 p.m. — The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory Emergency Operations Center has been activated and is gathering information about a reported radiological exposure incident at the Materials and Fuels Complex on the INL site.

Based on the information obtained so far, there is no risk to the public.

When events such as this are reported, DOE activates its EOC as a standard practice to gather information and coordinate site-wide incident responders, as needed.

INL personnel are responding to investigate the incident; and state, county and tribal officials are being notified. Updates will be issued when more information is available. Additional details on the nature of the incident and a preliminary impact assessment will be provided to the media and the public as soon as they are available and confirmed.

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