Lessons to be learned from Bruce Power contamination

Workers may have long wait for results
Section: 
News

By Josh Howald

Early testing indicates that while no workers will be adversely affected from the alpha radiation contamination at Bruce Power, there are lessons to be learned from the situation.

That point was hammered home by the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Michael Binder, at a CNSC Public Hearing held in Ottawa Thursday morning.

Binder and the board questioned why Bruce Power would not have learned from a similar situation that occurred at the Point LePreau Nuclear Generating Station less than two years ago.

It also came out that as many as 583 people may have had contact with alpha radiation in the vault of Bruce A, Unit 1. A total of 195 people are being tested for alpha radiation contamination.

Bruce Power staff was on hand to ask the CNSC to give testing accreditation to at least one American nuclear facility to speed up the testing process. Right now, the only Canadian site qualified to test for alpha radiation is in Chalk River – and the process is slow.

Representing Bruce Power at the hearing was Norm Sawyer, executive vice-president of Bruce A; Frank Saunders, vice president of nuclear oversight regulatory affairs; and Maureen McQueen, manager of radiation protection programs.

The trio gave a report on the incident and received some tough questions from the CNSC.

Bruce Power was monitoring for BETA radiation. The normal BETA to alpha radiation count is 10,000 to 1. Tests revealed the level in Unit 1 was as high as 7 to 1. There was no monitoring of alpha radiation, as the two are generally related. The unexpected high reading understandably caused concern.

At Thursday’s hearing, Bruce Power execs vowed to implement better monitoring devices and testing for its staff.

On Nov. 24, workers began preparing feeder tubes for a weld. The workers were using negative suction (like a vacuum) to dispose of the dust created by the cutting of the pipes. The pipes contained wet contamination of loose particulate: so the area was tented. However, particulate dust escaped the tent and affected the whole building. Therefore, workers were contaminated on the way in and out of the vault as they suited up and down.

Bruce Power officials explained the alpha radiation was unexpected. No alpha radiation monitors were in use. They have since been acquired and put into use at the plant.

Work in the vault ceased on Nov. 28, and has yet to restart.

Bruce Power sent the tests for 19 workers to the Chalk River testing facility, and then broadened the net to see who else had been in contact with the alpha radiation. As of Thursday, there were 195 workers with urine samples sent away for testing, a number that Saunders called conservative.

Of those initial 19 directly affected, 14 results have come back in line with the company’s prediction that they would be under the regulatory limits of alpha radiation. The highest dosage was 20.6mSv, while the low dosage was 11.5 mSv.

The maximum dose acceptable for nuclear workers is 100mSv (10,000 mrem) over a five-year period, with no more than 50mSv in any given year.

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

Sawyer told the CNSC that each worker that has been tested will be met with one-on-one to discuss the results and how the testing was done. He also mentioned that independent testing will be done to give the workers peace of mind, which Bruce Power rep John Peevers confirmed over the phone Thursday afternoon.

Binder said that while he is confident that no workers will be physically harmed from the incident, there is still damage done from “perceived radiation.” He urged Bruce Power to make the results of the testing public as they come in through its website and the media, and is looking forward to seeing a final report on the incident, which is due to the CNSC in the next 45 days.


Contamination...

As part the refurbishment of unit 1 in late November last year, corrosion products containing cobalt-60 were dislodged during grinding work on reactor feeder pipes. The immediate response was to reinforce radiation controls and increase the frequency of sampling. Follow-up analysis confirmed the presence of cobalt-60 and alpha-emitting contamination and this was confirmed by outside experts in late December.

Radiation doses to all nuclear power plant workers are logged every day and Bruce Power did not mention to the CNSC that any workers's records showed anything unusual. The company noted that "regulatory limits are not likely to have been exceeded" although "up to 217 people may have been affected by this event."

Bruce said that maintenance work was stopped for clean up and the Chalk River Laboratory has been working to determine the actual radiation doses workers received. In the meantime, all the workers potentially affected have been taken off radioactive duties.

The CNSC said it was monitoring all this activity and ensuring that Bruce Power is "aware of the extent of condition of cause of the event and that they are taking appropriate corrective actions." Bruce said it had installed an additional alpha-sensitive radiation monitor in the area and is working on a detailed report for the CNSC.
This is really interesting topic, I'll write a paper on it or probably just buy essay .

food for thought

Bruce Nuclear, is denying potentially ill workers exposed to alpha radiation, by denying their rights to prompt medical diagnosis and treatment. Radiation illnesses can take many, many years to manifest and without early detection workers can be doomed. I sincerely hope as I commented previously, the 563 workers exposed to radiation, each file claims with Ontario's WSIB.
Also, the workers only have 6 months to get a WSIB claim under way. if they miss that deadline, the worker will be forced to try and sue the company which can not be done, so it is essential WSIB claims are filed ASAP. It's a powerful enterprize, but when you care just for building new plants like Power Plant in Alberta and getting profit, treating your workers unproperly, nothing good will come of it.

This incident is similar

This incident is similar to what happened in Chernobyl. I’ve heard just recently that some workers given an assigned dose, over 5 rem for 1 year. If this is true, what does this now mean for Bruce Power, now that they appear to have broken the law? Will there just be more swept under the rug? Is their license at risk? I am writing an article about this as well as surgery for gynecomastia.

Bruce Power is the largest

Bruce Power is the largest nuclear facility in North America, and the second largest in the world. It has eight CANDU reactors with a total output capability of 7,276 megawatts!