Jan 4, 2008

DOE recommends fining Battelle for nuclear safety violations

By SHANNON DININNY / Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday recommended a $288,750 fine against Battelle Memorial Institute for nuclear safety violations at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

However, Battelle is exempt from civil penalties for nuclear safety violations under its current contract and will not have to pay the fine. A nonprofit, Battelle does not plan to appeal the recommendation, spokesman Greg Koller said.

"Our performance certainly wasn't adequate here. We failed to live up to our own expectations and values," Koller said. "But, that said, we did mount a comprehensive response to these events, and we're committed strongly to implementing the corrective actions that were identified in all of this."

Among the steps taken by Battelle were improved training, more rigorous radiation surveys and adjustments to workers' handling procedures for sealed radiological sources, Koller said.

The violations centered on Battelle's oversight of radiological contaminants.

In December 2006, there was an airborne release of plutonium from a glovebox in a laboratory. The release was contained to the room, but resulted in low levels of contamination to a researcher and two visiting scientists.

In June 2007, four laboratory workers received minor radioactive contamination while conducting research when a sealed source of plutonium leaked. Those workers then traveled offsite and spread the contamination to three family members.

The Energy Department said the proposed penalty is based on the significance of the violations, yet reflects Battelle's efforts to prevent a recurrence of the problems.

Battelle has managed the laboratory for the Energy Department under a series of extended contracts since the lab's inception in 1965. Under federal law, Battelle does not have to pay the penalty because its contract was entered into before the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which eliminated an exemption of civil penalties for nonprofits.

Battelle's exemption expires with its current contract on Sept. 30, 2008.

Last year, the Energy Department announced that it would put the lab contract out for bid for the first time in more than 40 years. The decision came after the laboratory was criticized for a high-profile research error involving cleanup of the highly contaminated Hanford nuclear reservation.

Battelle announced last month that it will again bid on the contract, partnering with the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Group Inc., an engineering company formerly known as BWXT Services Inc.

With an annual budget of more than $725 million, the laboratory's research areas include science and environment, energy, defense and national security. Since 1965, the laboratory has received a total of 1,466 U.S. and foreign patents. It employs about 4,300 people and has a payroll of $327 million.

Battelle also is a partner in operating Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the Idaho National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

[Download the Preliminary Notice of Violation here.]


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what Battelle now gets paid and what a new contractor will cost. There may still be time for congress to act to prevent another train wreck like the one that has taken place at Los Alamos.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh.

Be afraid, my Pacific Northwest brethren. Be very afaid.

Soon you will be overlorded by Pacific Northwest National Security. Your FTE rates will go sky high in order to support the tripling of managament. 20 percent of you will have to be laid off to offset the extra costs.

Start squawking to congress now, before it's too late!

Anonymous said...

> Battelle also is a partner in operating
> ... Lawrence Livermore National
> Laboratory in California.

What? Since when?
Are they confusing Battelle with Bechtel?

Anonymous said...

Is this why 10 CFR 835 was revised?

Anonymous said...

To 10:24 asking if they are confusing Bechtel with Battelle. The article is correct. We at Livermore do have both Bechtel and Battelle. Got to spread that money around. Remember that the contract for Livermore is much less than LANL, so they have smaller bags of cash to carry back to their corporate headquaters.

Anonymous said...


BWXT is one of the partners. Well, at least it doesn't include Bechtel ("rhymes with rectal").

Anonymous said...

Now that DOE has successfully destroyed LANL, they'll be moving on to do the same at PNNL.

They've already started working to destroy PNNL's ability to take on WFO work at cost effective rates. Next will come the fines, followed by more accusations of security and safety violations. Once the LLC is in place at PNNL they'll finally be on the same doomsday trajectory as other labs like LLNL and LANL.

This is so sad to watch play out, especially when we've all seen this movie one time too many.

Anonymous said...

"Our performance certainly wasn't adequate here. We failed to live up to our own expectations and values," Koller said. "

Could you imagine such sentiments ever being expressed in public by anyone working at LANL? Not even in private would such an admission be made... not in a million years.

Anonymous said...


As part of the LLNS LLC only and not LANS LLC, Battelle is an “integrated subcontractor” to LLNS.

Under this concept Battelle is entitled to share in the net income of LLNS much the same as the Members (Bechtel, UC, BWXT and WGI), and Battelle assigns one or more individuals to LLNS, where he or she is embedded in the LLNL management structure and is primarily responsible for business development of federal agency funding sources other than DOE/NNSA.

Because of this unique role, Battelle is sometimes referred to as a "partner" in LLNS, and was identified as part of the LLNS proposal team during the competition for LLNL, although strictly speaking Battelle is a subcontractor to LLNS, not a Member of LLNS.

Anonymous said...

Am I just dense or rather, does the magnitude of this fine seem out of proportion with the offense? Is a minor Pu release in a controlled area worth such concern and attention?

It's not like a tiger escaped from the zoo.

I think a nice solid $5000 fine matches the seriousness of this release.

I realize that this is a offense against a canon law of the church of PC as well as a secular offense, but aren't we not supposed to have a state sponsored religion so we can avoid such Inquisitions?

Just saying....

Anonymous said...

"...Now that DOE has successfully destroyed LANL, they'll be moving on to do the same at PNNL..."

Empirical evidence suggests a Kim-Philby, Robert-Hanssen-like mole high in DOE.

"Destroy all that is valuable"

Too bad, I've worked with PNNL recently on a few occassions and I am impressed with their ability to deliver...

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the "wackencunt" from the flats. A perfect example of mgt out of control.

Anonymous said...

4:01 pm, you missed the part about the second release in which a supposedly sealed source leaked and contamination was spread to non-controlled buildings including the workers' houses. Though ultimately less hazardous that the glovebox incident in terms of dose to anyone, the fact that it went into the public domain was more serious.

Anonymous said...

4:01 thinks a Pu release and uptake is "minor" because Dininny slipped that word into the story. Or perhaps he's involved in one of the similar incidents at LANL. Had 4:01 been the one contaminated he'd likely see things a little differently.

Anonymous said...

4:01 sounds like a manager to me. Hopefully not in radiation protection.

Take one whiff of Pu and you will wish a tiger had got you.

Anonymous said...

6:46 AM - yeah, sounds like the Americium leak at LANL all over again. Good thing Wallace screwed up managing that event and covered up his tracks on that one ... and he got a big promotion for it!!

Anonymous said...

If it hadn't been for someone leaking the Americium story to the "LANL, The Real Story" blog in July, 2005, the public would probably never heard about it.


Americium Contamination.

Anonymous said...

Did DOE ever fine LANL for the July 2005 Americium contamination event?

Anonymous said...

Not a penny, 10:08.

Anonymous said...

Here is another example of DOE's double standard for LANL. Why is this important at Y-12 but not at LANL?

Anonymous said...

"Take one whiff of Pu and you will wish a tiger had got you.."

In small enough quantities, balderdash.

Anonymous said...

How much have you inhaled?

Anonymous said...

5:12 is demonstrating that there are more ways than just using 7th grade grammar to sound ignorant on this blog.

Anonymous said...

"How much have you inhaled?"

A toking amount

Anonymous said...

Pu. Smoking stinks.

Anonymous said...

1/5 9:38 am: "If it hadn't been for someone leaking the Americium story to the "LANL, The Real Story" blog in July, 2005, the public would probably never heard about it."

Bullshit. The incident report was filed and made public as usual by DOE Occurence Reporting, a few hours after the "event." It was duly covered in the press, just not in an alarmist tone. Sometimes, the media reporters actually can discern an event that is so innocuous that it doesn't merit their usual hair-on-fire response, thank goodness. Obviously, you are not so discerning.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit yourself, asshole. The Lab Public Affairs office sat on the story for 10 days. At 7/27/2005 08:02:00 AM the story broke on LANL, the Real Story. That's when the media got involved. The Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the AP, Reuters, and reporters about 10 other papers were calling "Baghdad Bob" Jim Fallin starting at about 8:03 that morning.


Here's the link: Americium Contamination Story

Anonymous said...

If 10:31 is talking about CAIRS then they are mistaken. From the Computerized Accident Incident Reporting and Recordkeeping System (CAIRS) website:

"Access to the database is open to DOE and DOE contractors. Additional information regarding CAIRS registration maybe found here."

These reports are not released to the public. Wanna guess why?

Anonymous said...

"Bullshit yourself, asshole."

As a neutral observer.... I generally presume that the first to resort to profanity has conceded the argument. Do others have the same reaction?

Doug Roberts said...

Profane or not, 10:50pm has the facts straight, and 10:31 does not.

I ran the "LANL, The Real Story Blog", and I remember this incident quite clearly. I received an email tip about the Americium contamination event during the early morning hours of July 7, 2005. At 7:30am that morning I made a few calls which confirmed that the event had in fact occurred as described. I made the posting shortly after that.

I spent most of the rest of the day answering the phone as reporters called seeking additional information, which I was unable to supply.

The story broke on the blog and was picked up by the media. LANL had been attempting to keep the story under wraps for 10 days prior to it being written up on LTRS.

Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired.

Anonymous said...

Doug is right. LANL kept this event under raps as long as they could. People close to the event know this to be true. Only once the story leaked out did LANL PR finally try to get out in front of it and tell the public what had happened during this contamination incident.

Anonymous said...

Okay, a glovebox presumably leaked and so did a sealed source of Pu. Why is this a management problem? Certainly if workers did not monitor properly and the Pu spread around the labs, then I can see an issue.

Pinky and The Brain said...

Not just around the lab.

"Those workers then traveled offsite and spread the contamination to three family members."