Originally created 09/25/98

SRS fined for safety standard violations



The U.S. Department of Energy has fined its chief Savannah River Site contractor $75,000 for violating safety standards at the site.

Energy Department officials levied the fine after Westinghouse Savannah River Co. failed to collect urine samples properly from about 250 employees to test whether they were exposed to radiation, said Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at SRS.

Violations began in late 1995 and continued until 1997, Mr. Giusti said.

"They violated their own procedures, which are based upon Energy Department criteria," Mr. Giusti said Thursday.

Westinghouse operates SRS for the Energy Department, which owns the site. The site stores and treats radioactive waste from the nation's nuclear-weapons buildup.

To correct the problems cited Monday by the Energy Department, Westinghouse officials already have revised the company's monitoring procedures and plan additional revisions, said Susie Grant, a spokeswoman for the company.

Revisions include additional training for some site supervisors and an overhaul of how officials track employees through the monitoring process, Ms. Grant said.

Westinghouse officials hope to have the new standards in place by November, Ms. Grant said. Energy Department officials will review the standards to ensure they meet the department's criteria, Mr. Giusti said.

None of the employees has reported becoming sick due to their work, Ms. Grant said. Subsequent tests found no evidence that the workers actually were exposed to radiation, according to a letter written to Westinghouse president Ambrose Schwallie by Peter Brush, an assistant energy secretary.

"We take an overwhelming amount of data, but we're pretty confident we're aboveboard on this," Ms. Grant said.

Energy Department officials fined Westinghouse under the Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988, which allows the department to create and enforce nuclear-safety rules with its contractors. The action was the second Price-Anderson fine levied against Westinghouse in two years, Mr. Giusti said.

A $93,750 fine was levied in 1997 after an employee in the site's "F-Canyon" received a large dose of radiation from plutonium, he said. That incident was one reason the Energy Department investigated Westinghouse's monitoring program, Mr. Giusti said.