Investigative panel formed after airborne radioactive exposure at Los Alamos National Labs
A breached plutonium glove box released airborne radioactive material that was more than double the yearly limit for a work area last month at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
According to a report by the Santa Fe New Mexican, a government watchdog’s report says this prompted the creation of an investigative panel.
The National Nuclear Security Agency, a branch of the Energy Department formed an accident investigation board to look into the incident that took place on January 7th.
It is also estimated that as many as four workers were contaminated, with one undergoing treatment at the lab’s outpatient clinic.
An employee noticed the breach after working with a container of legacy waste in the glove box.
No long after the alarms sounded and the six-person crew was evacuated, according to a report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
Radiological control technicians identified contamination on two workers’ faces, heads, and protective gear; these workers were decontaminated.
Nose swabs indicated that one of these workers and two others in the room might have breathed in the airborne contaminants.
The worker who was given the highest radioactive reading was sent to the clinic and given chelation therapy, which is a method that cleanses heavy metals from the body and is used in some cases of radiation exposure.
This is Los Alamos’ third glove box breach that has been reported in the last two years.
Government watchdog groups say these kinds of exposures are likely to occur more often as the lab is gearing up to produce 30 plutonium pits for warhead triggers by 2026.
With lab employees handling more radioactive material, the odds of more accidents are increased.