Number of potentially exposed workers upped

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News

By Josh Howald

As many as 190 workers at Bruce Power may have been exposed to alpha radiation.

That number was originally thought to be 19 after a routine airborne sample indicated long-lived particulate as crews worked on Bruce A Unit 1, which has been shut down for more than a decade. Crews were replacing feeder tubes in preparation for the planned 2011 restart.

“What we’ve done is taken a look at people that were in the vault of the time period,” said Bruce Power rep John Peevers Friday afternoon. “We’re trying to be conservative to give some peace of mind and the results have broadened our net to about 190 that have been potentially exposed.”

The workers have undergone urine testing, and the samples have been sent to Chalk River to be analyzed. The first results of the first 19 workers are currently being processed.

“We have some very preliminary tests back, and it’s looking like the results will not be over the regulatory limits,” said Peevers. “But it is hard to process and predict.”

Peevers said he didn’t want to put a time frame on the results, but expects the first batch sometime in February.

“The tests are highly technical, and Chalk River is the only place in Canada we can get this done,” he said. “They can process no more than two samples a day – it isn’t like a drug test, it is very complex.”

Following the realization of the airborne radiation, the J-prep work area was tented and ventilated with HEPA (High efficiency particulate absorbing) filters. Access to the Unit 1 vault has been restricted until the clean-up is completed.

The plant is also taking precautions to ensure something like this does not happen again. Peevers said the company will be installing some specialized equipment that will read levels more closely.

Alpha radiation can’t penetrate skin, but may be dangerous if it is inhaled or exposed to an open wound. It can cause radiation poisoning and chromosome damage.

“We are taking extra precautions (with testing),” said Peevers. “The health and safety of our employees is obviously our number one concern.”

A report was filed by Bruce Power to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. That report can be found online at brucepower.com/health and safety.