Radiation can harm people without their knowledge since one can’t see it, hear it, feel it, taste it or smell it. You can be quite certain that there are numerous radioactive sources in a position to harm or ultimately kill someone. Some of these sources will have been intentionally placed to cause injury or even death. For example -- it is suspected that someone deliberately contaminated the water cooler at the National Institute of Health two years ago.
"Because of the lack of regulatory control, right now, people are being irradiated by some of the approximately 9000 missing nuclear sources without any means of detecting the danger that they’re in."|
Three Mile Island Alert Security Committee Chairman Scott Portzline
The patient was taken back to her nursing home. For ten days, workers and visitors of the nursing home were unknowingly irradiated. The wire containing the seed fell out on the fourth day and disposed of in a medical biohazards bag which remained on site.
When the medical waste disposal truck arrived to haul the refuse, the driver failed to make a radiation survey with a portable survey meter as per company policy. The source was finally discovered at an incineration facility in Warren Ohio when radiation alarms indicated contamination.
Because the plant manager and supervisor could not determine which trailer contained the radioactive source, they decided to drive one tractor trailer at a time behind a concrete building to act as a shield. As soon as the trailer containing the radioactive source drove out from behind the building, the meter registered its highest level from 400 feet away. Upon searching the trailer, they were able to trace the bag to the nursing home.
An NCR incident Investigation team found that the patient received a serious mis-administration and had died five days after the failed treatment. The Indiana County Coroner’s report stated that the patient died of "Acute Radiational (sic) Exposure and the Consequences Thereof." Newspaper advertisements located some of the visitors to the nursing home who were irradiated. Some of the nursing home staff had what the NRC called "significant" doses. They determined that over 90 people were exposed.
A shipment of used stainless steel turbine diaphragms was being transported from the Montecello nuclear plant located near Minneapolis, MN, to Alleron in Koppel, Pa. the door of one of two 20-foot long c-vans containing these diaphragms was found to be open in the Conrail rail yard in Allentown, Pa. the c-van containers were located on a rail car, and they each contained approximately 40,000 pounds of used stainless steel turbine diaphragms with low level surface contamination (several thousand dpm/100 cm^2 smearable, or approximately 1 mrem/hr) (class-7 2913-placard material). The highest dose rate on contact with the c-van was 0.8 mrem/hr. each diaphragm was wrapped in plastic, and there was no obvious damage to the wrapping. a licensee representative stated that there was no exposure danger if the plastic wrapping was not breached. The right door (looking from the rear) was found to be open approximately 3 feet, and the wood locking and bracing was visible inside the container near the door. There were no parts found outside of the container, and the door was believed to have opened due to shifting of the contents against the door at the Allentown rail yard. A Montecello representative stated that the event was identified at approximately 1630 CST.
There is some confusion regarding the shipping papers and how the rail car in question arrived in Allentown, Pa. The Pa. Department of Environmental Protection reported that shipment entered the Conrail system on January 19, 1997, and was mistakenly transported to the Maher terminal located in dockside, NJ. the error was discovered, and the shipment was forwarded to Koppel, Pa. However, the information in the Conrail computer indicated that the rail car had been emptied, even though it had never been unloaded.
The rail car has been isolated. Conrail currently has a hazardous materials
representative onsite and has contracted react to ensure that the load will
be adequately secured prior to any further shipment. The Pa. Department of
Environmental Protection has notified the Pa. Emergency Management Agency
and has dispatched a representative to the site. A radiation protection
supervisor from Montecello has also been dispatched to the rail yard and is
expected to arrive tomorrow morning. in addition, Montecello requested
Limerick (located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) to send a health physics
representative to the rail yard to help assess the status. The Limerick
representative is expected to arrive at the rail yard by 2230 tonight and
plans to report the status of the shipment to Montecello. Montecello plans
to inform the NRC of this status when the report from limerick has been
The North Carolina division of radiation control was notified by the nuclear regulatory commission that a store in Fayetteville, North Carolina was selling tritium lighting devices.
Further investigation by the NC division of radiation control disclosed that an army surplus store was selling tritium lighting
devices (torches, personnel illuminators, and map readers) to military personnel as instructed wrongfully by another company which has an NRC license.
On 1/05/89, that company distributed 30 devices (40 sources) and on 05/07/91 they distributed another 24 devices (24 sources). The two shipments totaled 64 sources of tritium measuring 136.9 curies. The store had only 22 sources remaining in stock (46.65 curies of tritium) and they have been shipped back to the licensee. The other 42 sources (90.35 curies) were sold without any records being made of the sale. The state has not yet determined what type of action it will take.
February 27, 1996 -- The three individuals who stole the cameras stripped the cameras of their caution radiation labels and took the cameras to a scrap metal dealer (A) where they were sold as scrap. The dealer sold the small Co-60 camera to a second dealer (B) the same day.
February 28, 1996 Dealer A sold the large Co-60 camera to Dealer B. The Ir-192 camera remained at Dealer A. Dealer B determined the cameras were not stainless steel.
February 29, 1996 -- Dealer B shipped both Co-60 cameras to a third scrap dealer (C) in a large load of scrap. Dealer C has radiation detectors at their plant entry and detected the radiation from the cameras. The manager of dealer C and his two assistants were not at the site when the cameras arrived. A trainee was on duty when the cameras arrived. They segregated the cameras from the rest of the scrap shipment and returned the cameras to dealer B informing them that the cameras contained radioactive materials.
The large camera's lock box, holding the pigtail and the 35.3 curie Co-60 source, was torn loose by a forklift as it was being loaded onto a pallet for loading onto a truck at dealer B for return to dealer A on the afternoon of the 29th. The lockbox, with pigtail and source, was loaded on to the pallet with one of the forks of the forklift. The exposed radioactive source and lock box remained on the pallet with the cameras.
Dealer B attempted to return the cameras to dealer A on the afternoon of February 29th, but the site had closed for the day. The manager of dealer A showed up and the dealer B driver informed him that the cameras were radioactive and that dealer B was returning the cameras. The dealer B driver returned to his facility and parked the truck containing the cameras and the exposed source in a remote area of the scrap yard.
March 1, 1996 -- Dealer B returned the cameras to dealer A. While unloading the cameras from the truck, the lock box and source fell through the pallet and remained on the truck. It was then picked up by the driver, at the source capsule, and thrown to the side after the cameras were unloaded. It was then kicked under the corner of the office building located at dealer A. by an employee. Neither individual was aware that what they were handling and kicking around was an unshielded source.
The owner of dealer A was told that the cameras were radioactive. He then sold the large camera, without the source inside, to another scrap yard (D) and sold the small camera, with the source inside and shielded, to a fifth scrap dealer (E) without advising anyone that the cameras contained radioactive materials. Dealer E in turn sold the small camera to another recycling Co. (F). The manager was unaware that the Co-60 source was on the ground at his scrap yard. The BRC was never notified by any of these companies that they were in possession of radioactive sources.
March 5, 1996 -- The 1.3 TBq (35.3 Ci) Co-60 source remained unshielded at dealer A until March 5, 1996, where it was located by BRC Health Physicists at 1:30 pm. The scrap yard was evacuated and secured and the source was recovered and secured later that evening. Eleven adults and two children were exposed to high levels of radiation at the scrap yard and one adult from dealer B was exposed when he transported and handled the camera and source. Five Houston Police Officers were exposed to low radiation levels when they conducted interviews at dealer A. Dose assessment of the incident are included in Table H.1.
DOSE ASSESSMENTS OF THE INCIDENT
Scrap Yard Owner 18 rem
Scrap Yard Manager 53 rem
Scrap Yard Manager's Wife 55 rem
Two Children at Scrap Yard 39 rem
Workers at Scrap Yard 15 rem
Customers at Scrap Yard 0.16 rem
A Scrap Yard Worker -- wholebody .5 rem -- extremity 2500/3000 rem
Police Officers .5 rem
In this case, BRC was notified by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, which was working at the site of the bankrupt company, that the door from the building where the devices were stored was removed. Upon investigation, BRC determined that the three devices had been removed. On March 4, 1996, BRC issued a news release that was highly publicized by the local media. This assisted in BRC eventually locating the devices.
Another incident in Illinois was discovered when a scrap dealer purchased a radiation detection instrument and found a radioactive source buried on the site. The source was discovered in backfill used to re-grade the site. Excavation of the area by an incident response team recovered the source. It was determined to be cesium-137 with an activity of approximately 370 mCi). Exposure rates were calculated to be 145 mrem/hr at 0.91 m (3 ft). There is no way of knowing how long the source had been on the site or whether it may have been exposing workers and other individuals prior to being discovered. The two incidents described above illustrate the mechanisms and potential harm that could occur to scrap workers and other members of the public. These sources could have caused serious exposure if located near individuals.
The Incentive to "Dump" is Too Great
Far too often licensed sources (i.e. gauges, glow in the dark exit signs, special cameras) are illegally dumped to avoid paying the disposal expenses. Because the fine for illegal dumping is only $2000 and proper disposal can cost up to $20,000, the incentive is to simply "dump." If a radioactive source ends up smelted at a steel mill, the cost of cleanup cost can soar to as much as $100 million.
Based on data from the 1984 NRC survey and extrapolating to a total of 2 million sources -- accounts for sourced regulated by agreement states. This does not count military sources. Opinion of Scott D. Portzline