A spokesperson for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said Wednesday that contamination events at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility noted in recent weekly reports filed by Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) staff were reported as part of a Radiation Protection Observation Process employed at LANL.
“None of the identified contamination events rose to a level requiring Occurrence Reporting. As also identified in the (DNFSB) report, none resulted in radiological uptakes by facility personnel,” the NNSA spokesperson said.
In response to a request for information from the Los Alamos Daily Post, the spokesperson said LANL uses an internal RPO process to track and trend radiological conditions.
“This process is used to document off-normal, adverse conditions; unanticipated occurrences or results; violations of procedure; or any time an RCT or their management feels an RPO would support documentation for the historical record,” she said. “The RPO process is designed to identify potential radiological trends for action before they become issues. Many RPOs are generated at a level that is below the threshold for Occurrence Reporting required of the Department of Energy directives or LANL’s more formalized process for event reporting – Facility Operations Director’s Notifications.”
During a Dec. 5 safety walkdown of a glovebox involved in a recent breach, a potential latent sharp was discovered. The DNFSB reports said the sharp is associated with a latching mechanism used to secure external shielding to certain nuclear material containers.
“The latch is in a location consistent with the typical hand-positioning needed to move the container in a glovebox, as well as the breach location found on the glove,” the report stated. “They plan to issue a lessons learned and ensure that the latches are protected with tape or other materials when used inside a glovebox.”
An earlier report dated Nov. 24, 2017 said radiological control technicians reported several contamination events in the facility.
“In all cases, either workers detected the contamination as part of routine monitoring or continuous air monitors (CAM) which alarmed as designed,” the report stated. It added that there were no indications of radiological uptakes by the involved workers.
The events included three closures of the facilities north corridor resulting from a CAM alarm and RCT surveys indicating contamination of up to 4500 dpm. The reports said RCT management believes this contamination may have migrated from the room undergoing decontamination following the glovebox breach have strengthened confinement practices.
The reports indicate that as a result of a glovebox glove breach during repackaging of legacy nuclear materials which was identified by the worker during self-monitoring, safety personnel will review the location for latent sharps and have recommended “glove change periodicity”. A worker handling a previously surveyed items, “proactively self-monitored and discovered contamination on his glove”, one report said. It added that RCTs determined the contamination was from a particle, but were unable to otherwise find a source in the area. Also a worker detected skin contamination on their hand during self-monitoring, which RCTs successfully decontaminated and determined to be a particle, the report stated.
LANL uses an internal RPO process to track and trend radiological conditions. This process is used to document off-normal, adverse conditions; unanticipated occurrences or results; violations of procedure; or any time a Radiological Control Technician or their management feels an RPO would support documentation for the historical record. The RPO process is designed to identify potential radiological trends for action before they become issues. Many RPOs are generated at a level that is below the threshold for Occurrence Reporting required of the DOE directives, or LANL’s more formalized process for event reporting – Facility Operations Director’s Notifications.