United States

Nuclear Agency Inspecting Maryland Lab After Contamination; At Least 1 Worker Exposed

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special inspection at a facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland, after an accident that exposed at least one worker to excess levels of radiation.

A five-member NRC team began the inspection Tuesday after a small glass container full of a radioactive material shattered in a National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratory, NIST said in a statement. The contamination was discovered on Aug. 18. 

Initial test results appear to show that one employee who regularly works with radioactive materials "received a dose above the annual regulatory limit" for radiation workers. 

The worker was treated. Information on the employee's condition was not released immediately. Also, it was not clear for how long he or she may have been exposed to the material. 

Testing on additional staff members is underway.

The source of the contamination was traced to a small glass ampoule that shattered inside a lead-lined container, which was inside a larger protective storage box, NIST said. 

Small levels of radioactive contamination were found in a nearby laboratory and in two "non-laboratory" spaces on the NIST campus. The levels in the non-lab spaces "do not pose a health concern," the NIST statement said.


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A full survey of the building was completed and no other contamination was found.

The NRC team is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the accident, as well as NIST's corrective actions.

NIST, a federal entity that is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, employs about 3,000 scientists, engineers and others on a 578-acre campus about 15 miles north of Washington, D.C.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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