Friday, June 15, 2007

INL all clear after ?facility incident?

Officials say no radiation was released in Tuesday fire

Express Staff Writer

Emergency crews at the Idaho National Laboratory extinguished a small fire Tuesday inside a laboratory at the site's Reactor Technology Complex. A spokesperson said no radiation was released at the site and the public faces no health risks as a result of the fire.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy, a laboratory technician was transferring about an ounce of red phosphorous powder to a stainless steel container at about 1:40 p.m. when the material flashed, igniting a small fire. The technician received minor injuries, including burns and respiratory complications, the DOE reported. She was wearing protective clothing and working in a fume hood when the incident occurred.

Red phosphorous is a material commonly used to make roadside flares.

The technician was treated and released at the onsite Central Facilities Area Medical Facility, the news release stated. The INL Fire Department extinguished the fire and issued an "all-clear" order late Tuesday afternoon. Forty workers were evacuated and evaluated as a precautionary measure.

The Advanced Test Reactor, the 40-year-old centerpiece of the 890-square-mile federal nuclear reserve, was not affected, INL spokesperson John Epperson told The Associated Press. The Advanced Test Reactor is located within the Reactor Technology Complex.

"The public is not in any risk or danger," Epperson said.

The INL is located in the desert west of Idaho Falls and is home to three reactors, including the Advanced Test Reactor, which was originally designed to test fuel for nuclear submarines.

A June 12 AP news article reported that Epperson said no radiation was released, but that he declined to give more specifics about the incident. He said state, county and tribal officials on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation to the south were notified of the incident.

"Industrial accidents happen and the nuclear industry is very dangerous," said Ester Ceja, outreach director for the Snake River Alliance, a nonprofit nuclear watchdog group. "We're glad nothing more serious happened."

The INL has formed an investigative team to determine the cause of the fire. The team will include experts from several organizations. No time has been set for completing the investigation and the subsequent report.

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