Statement from James M. Turner, Deputy Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
We take our responsibility for protecting our personnel's and the public's health and safety very seriously. We have fully cooperated with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspectors and will continue to do so.
So far in responding to this incident NIST has taken the following actions:
- consulted with top medical experts on health effects from plutonium exposures to ensure that any personnel who could potentially have received internal exposure to plutonium receive appropriate medical testing and care.
- stopped work with radiation sources at our Boulder site;
- launched investigations of the incident, involving both internal and external experts, to learn what happened, why it happened, and what we can do to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future;
- begun planning to purchase services from a licensed contractor to clean up the laboratory room where the plutonium spill occurred (NIST will submit that detailed plan to the NRC within the specified deadline);
- required NIST managers to re-certify that employees and associates have the necessary training to do their jobs safely; and
- pledged to strengthen our safety and emergency response training and procedures, as well as the methods used to evaluate the effectiveness of those measures.
The fact that this incident occurred is unacceptable. We value the NRC's expertise and will rigorously comply with all requirements. We are working very hard to both respond to this incident as completely as quickly as possible and to foster a strengthened safety culture for NIST broadly.
For more information on the NRC Confirmatory Action Letter, visit http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2008/08-030.iv.html.
Additional information on the NIST Boulder plutonium incident is available at http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/boulder-incident.html.