A Savannah River Site worker contaminated with plutonium after his finger was punctured in a 2010 accident will fully recover, according to a final medical analysis released Tuesday.
“Based on the estimated dose, there is no expected impact to the length or quality of the employee’s life,” Savannah River Nuclear Solutions concluded, after more than a year of monitoring that followed the June 14, 2010, accident at the site’s F-Area.
The employee was sorting radioactive waste for shipment to a disposal site in New Mexico. The investigation found that he improperly inserted a survey flag into a can of radioactive waste, causing the wire shaft of the flag to puncture six layers of protective clothing and his index finger.
The worker, who did not consent to have his name released, received a “committed effective” radiation dose of 31.6 REM. That dose is defined as the total amount of radiation estimated to be measured over a 50-year period, which averages less than 1 REM per year, company spokesman D.T. Townsend said.
That annual dose is below the U.S. Department of Energy limit of 2 REM per year and also below the federal dose limit of 5 REM per year. According to the American Nuclear Society, a REM, or Roentgen equivalent man, is a unit used in radiation protection to measure the amount of damage to human tissue from a dose of ionizing radiation.
Although the incident had the potential to be more serious, “the positive outcome of the final dose is attributed to the quick response taken to excise the wound and to provide chelation treatments, both immediately after and long term, following the event,” the company said in a statement.
A third party peer review of the results was conducted by a private contractor, MJW Technical Associates, which confirmed the dose assessment, Townsend said.
Chelation is a therapy used to bind and remove transuranic material from the body. Determining the final committed effective dose requires a wait of 100 days after the last chelation treatment.
The employee has returned to the Ohio area to work for the Fluor Daniel consortium at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Before his employment at SRS, the employee worked at the Mound and Fernald DOE sites in Ohio.
A follow-up investigation by the DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Enforcement last year identified four violations of radiation protection and nuclear safety regulations in occupational dose limits, written procedures and work processes, training and qualification, and quality assurance.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions was later ordered to pay $243,750 in fines.