New federal lawsuit filed in INL plutonium accident

A new lawsuit was filed against Battelle Energy Alliance over the Nov. 8, 2011, exposure of 16 Idaho National Laboratory employees to plutonium.

The latest legal complaint was brought by Jodi Stanton, the wife of former INL nuclear operator Ralph Stanton.

Stanton and fellow nuclear operator Brian Simmons were among those exposed and filed a whistle-blower complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor in April 2013 against the INL contractor. It alleges Battelle created an unsafe work environment and then retaliated against them after they raised health and safety concerns.

Another lawsuit, filed in federal court by Stanton and Simmons in August 2013, seeks videotape evidence of the accident, denied by the Department of Energy.

The new lawsuit, filed by Jodi Stanton in federal court Tuesday, alleges many of the same claims in the 2013 complaints, including that both men were exposed to plutonium due to inadequate safety practices.

It also includes claims about possible radioactivity within the Stanton home as a result of the accident. The complaint alleges INL withheld medical information or intentionally provided false information about Stanton’s medical condition following the accident. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and an undisclosed amount in damages.

Both the Stantons and their attorney, Jack Sheridan, declined to comment on the latest lawsuit.

INL spokeswoman Nicole Stricker issued the following statement on behalf of the contractor: “INL’s general counsel has not yet received this lawsuit and so the company cannot comment on its claims.”

The November 2011 accident happened when INL workers opened a storage container with a plutonium fuel plate wrapped in plastic and tape. When workers tried to remove the wrapping, a plutonium powder spilled out exposing the surrounding workers to the radioactive element.