Liquid Eu-125 Source Vial Spills and Contaminates Worker during Radiation Monitor Check
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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  Los Alamos National Security, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Date: 

Topics:  Chemical Safety, Work Management/Planning, Radiation Protection, Laboratory

A radiological control technician (RCT) was performing a source check on an Area Radiation Monitor (ARM) used as an interlock for the High Energy Real Time Radiography facility at LANL. The RCT was familiar with this activity, having observed a previous source check. The RCT acquired the source to begin the source check. The liquid source was contained in a glass vial with a plastic screw top, labeled with a radioactive material sticker (obscuring the contents of the vial). The vial was normally stored in a small lead shield (aka pig).

The RCT removed the vial from the pig with long-handled pliers and proceeded to open the vial, expecting to find a solid Eu-152 source. When the RCT tipped the vial, the liquid source spilled on the work surface and contaminated the RCTs PPE gloves. The RCT stopped work and instructed the two operators present in the area to exit. The RCT monitored his gloves with a portable radiation detection instrument, but failed to detect contamination because the instrument was set up for external radiation monitoring for the HE-RTR machine. Consequently, contamination was spread to personal items and isolated areas of the RCTs skin. Workers were evaluated for potential radiation exposure, and there was no indication of intake of radioactive materials.

Lessons Learned: The use of dispersible radioactive materials in radioactive sealed sources (liquids, powders, gases) carries inherent risk of inadvertent release or spill. Radioactive sealed sources should be selected deliberately for each application, defaulting to the least hazardous and the best contained to minimize or eliminate the spill hazard. Lack of rigorous formality in conduct of operations when working with radioactive sealed sources can result in upset conditions. Work control for using radioactive sealed sources should include specific expectations for source selection, hazards and controls, training, and a thorough pre-job briefing specific to the work being performed.

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