An improperly sealed ventilation system caused the radioactive leak that contaminated three workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium facility earlier this year, requiring one of the employees to receive medical treatment, according to an internal federal review.
“‘They’re behind the curve all the time,’ said Scott Kovac, the research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.”
The review says a misaligned connection between the ventilation system and a glove box allowed radioactive material to slip through a degraded gasket on an old, unused port, raising questions about how these systems are inspected and maintained.
A glove box is a sealed compartment with attached gloves that workers use to handle radioactive material. The review looked at a January radioactive release involving a glove box, one of several such incidents reported in recent years.
In its newly posted June 3 report, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board gave a summary of the review conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a U.S. Energy Department branch.
The nuclear security agency’s review made 27 conclusions and listed nine areas that need correction to prevent similar incidents.