Dominion dispatched two workers to Millstone’s highly radioactive Unit 3 containment during its June 2021 refueling outage without telling them in advance about their known risks to high radiation exposure and without providing them with protective gear to shield themselves from the radiation.
It was only after the workers entered the high-radiation containment that they were assigned a task added at the last minute: to collect a reactor coolant system sample that would inevitably expose them to far higher radiation exposures than they had been told about. Under federal law, the last-minute work assignment required Dominion to provide them with extra shielding in advance of the work assignment.
After collecting the sample and while cleaning the radwaste collection bucket by hand, a “dose rate alarm” went off and the workers hurriedly evacuated containment.
Upon exit, they unknowingly set off personal contamination monitors and required immediate “skin decontamination.”
The alarm set point was 300 millirem per hour of radiation exposure; the workers’ electronic dosimeters measured nearly double that number: 590.
The two workers experienced 21 and 25 millirem of radiation to the “whole body.” The worker who cleaned the bucket containing a sample of highly radiation-contaminated reactor coolant received a whopping additional 242 millirem to the skin of his hand.
We express deep remorse over Dominion’s deliberate mistreatment of the anonymous nuclear workers, dismissing their avoidably excessive radiation exposures – linked scientifically to potentially fatal cancers and genetic defects that can be transmitted to their offspring – as “collateral damage” in its mad rush to complete the outage and return to government-subsidized, richly profitable generation of electricity.
Can you guess where the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission placed blame for the workers’ rad-alarms going off and their health-threatening radiation contamination?
Quick and easy answer: THE WORKERS THEMSELVES.
Read the NRC’s inspection report released to the public on November 12, 2021, nearly five months ago to the day after the event.
Although the workers were prepped in general on their assignment to containment that day, Dominion deliberately withheld from them the last-minute high-risk add-on assignment to collect a coolant sample, the heightened risks involved and failed to outfit them with self-protective equipment as required by law.
Whose fault? THE WORKERS: They should have asked for updated heightened exposure risks and appropriate additional self-protective equipment, according to the NRC.
In the NRC report’s own words, “The workers failed to adhere to the . . . requirements for entry into high radiation areas by failing to contact the radiation protection staff when the areas they needed to access and the activities they needed to perform changed from what was described during the initial briefing to enter the high radiation area.”
How serious a violation of law occurred?
The NRC scored it “green” – Under the category of “Occupational Radiation Safety,” NRC ranked it “a finding of very low safety significance” and did not penalize Dominion.