The Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos National Laboratory is investigating the possible exposure of Laboratory employees to plutonium-238 after a breach in a glovebox glove at the Plutonium Facility on June 8.
A Lab spokesperson told the Los Alamos Reporter Monday that employees responded promptly and appropriately, and cleared the room in a safe manner.
“Fifteen Laboratory workers are being evaluated for potential exposure. The area inside the Plutonium Facility where this occurred has been secured, pending a review of the events and there is no risk to public health and safety,” the spokesperson said.
A report by Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board inspectors Jonathan Plaue and David Gutowski dated June 12 noted that on June 8 continuous air monitors sounded when an operator pulled out of the glovebox gloves after weighing and packaging plutonium-238 oxide powder.
“The worker received significant contamination on his protective clothing, hair, and skin, as well as positive nasal swabs indicating a potential intake. Radiation protection personnel successfully decontaminated the individual, and he was provided chelation therapy,” the report states. “The room experienced significant airborne radioactivity and was contaminated. Fourteen additional workers were placed on bioassay. On Thursday (June 11), Triad management conducted a fact-finding to discuss the event, response, and near-term actions. Given the significance of the event, they chartered a team to perform a comprehensive investigation.”