Printed on: October 04, 2012

INL: No harm in exposure

By Alex Stuckey

The 16 workers exposed to plutonium last year at Idaho National Laboratory will have no adverse health effects, the lab announced Wednesday.

But INL officials refused to release specific internal radiological dosage numbers for the employees.

On Nov. 8, workers came across four small boxes containing plutonium fuel plates from the building that once housed the Zero Power Physics Reactor at INL's Materials and Fuels Complex.

After opening one of the boxes, workers found a fuel plate inside wrapped in plastic and tape. A black powder -- plutonium-239 -- spilled out. At least one of the 16 workers inhaled the radioactive substance.

None of the workers received an internal or external radiological dose that exceeded "administrative or regulatory limits" established by the Department of Energy, according to an INL news release. INL officials refused to discuss those limits Tuesday.

During the past 11 months, more than 1,400 analyses were performed on 228 different biological samples, the release said. A solubility study also was performed to determine the rate at which the inhaled radiological material is dissolving and exiting the body.

INL officials anticipate the release of a report later this morning regarding a possible DOE fine related to the exposure incident.