Numbers grow in lab incident

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Probe: Officials still looking into how exposures occurred

The ongoing investigation into the discovery of accidental radiation exposure at the Los Alamos National Laboratory last Saturday has revealed that 18 lab employees were exposed, as well as one contractor.

Earlier in the week, lab officials reported that about a dozen workers had been subjected to the radiological incident.

However, officials also stressed no one was harmed, as the incident involved very low levels of radiation from a form of Technetium.

“This is not the Technetium 99m that is used for medical isotopes. It is still a beta emitter, which occur naturally in the environment,” said Nancy Ambrosiano, public information officer for LANL. “The incident involved approximately the same radiation levels that occur naturally in bricks or stone flooring in the Southwest.”

Ambrosiano also said “it’s important to note that the highest measured exposure is more than 10 times less than what is allowed by law.”

The Department of Energy’s Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) teams have also just about completed determining where the contaminated employees went after being exposed to the radiological material.

Though the contamination was discovered inside the Luján Neutron Scattering Center at the LANL Science Center last Saturday, it is still not known when it happened. So far, the DOE’s RAP teams have cleared the only school they had to look at, Chamisa Elementary, as well as personal items of the individuals involved.

“While several individuals who were associated with the radiological incident did travel by air following contact with Technetium 99, surveys of those individuals and their clothes and bags, have given us assurance there has not been contamination to airlines or those traveling on airlines,” Ambrosiano said. “There is no threat to public health or air traveler safety.”

Earlier this week, the DOE gave county officials an update into the investigation, giving them much the same details that LANL has just disclosed.

Acting County Council Chair Geoff Rodgers said in a written statement that so far, he’s satisfied with the way the investigation is progressing.

“We appreciate the thoroughness and swift response of the RAP team in addressing the situation, and are appreciative of the DOE’s efforts to include us in today’s briefing about their findings,” Rodgers said, “We continue to stand ready to assist the DOE and laboratory in any way we can. While any release of potentially hazardous or harmful materials at LANL is unacceptable, we were immediately alerted to the situation last week and have been kept informed and involved by their emergency management response teams as they gathered information. We urge NNSA and LANL to continue their due diligence into the investigation of how and why this incident occurred and to report back to the county on their findings, so that we can rest assured that every precaution will be taken to see that last week’s incident won’t be repeated again in the future.”

According to Ambrosiano, the next steps in the investigation will include what caused the incident.

“Our investigation is centered on exactly what happened and why, but we have not yet determined the cause,” she said.