Inhales Radioactive Materials
inhaled small amount of radioactive plutonium and americium
A Fluor Hanford worker
recently inhaled a small amount of radioactive plutonium and americium
at the plutonium Finishing plant. According to tests performed on the
employee, the inhaled amount was below dangerous levels prescribed by
However, the employee is being kept out of radiation control areas until
the end of the year to reduce his chance of more radiation exposure, said
Fluor spokesman Michael Turner. Exposures at that level are considered
minor by the Department of Energy's radiation standards. An increase of
cancer can occur if sufficient amounts of those particles accumulate in
a person's lungs.
This was the first plutonium inhalation incident involving a Fluor worker
in at least four years, company officials said. The accident occurred
in the PFP area where ovenlike muffle furnaces bake scrap plutonium into
safer forms. Most of that work is done inside gloveboxes where workers
can safely handle instruments and materials inside the boxes' radioactive
The unidentified employee was routinely inspecting a glovebox, putting
his hands into the gloves. After pulling out his hands and trying to leave
the radiation control area, the worker discovered he was contaminated.
That stopped the work in that room. And three other people in the chamber
also were checked. The worker inspecting the glovebox was the only one
who was confirmed as contaminated. A hole was found in a finger of a glove
he inserted his hand into while inspecting the glovebox, Turner said.
He apparently contaminated his finger, and radioactive particles then
apparently reached his mouth or nose.
In 1998, two Fluor employees inhaled small amounts of plutonium from an
air line leading into a PFP glovebox. Their exposures also were below
DOE's annual radiation dose limits.