Originally created 02/28/04

Contractor admits to nuclear alarm scare



OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - A cleaning contractor has admitted to handling fuses at a nuclear facility that triggered alarms that sent 250 workers scrambling for safety.

Although a formal investigation report into the triggering of a nuclear criticality alarm at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has not been finalized, officials know who might be responsible for the Feb. 4 incident.

Dennis Hill, a spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs Co., said someone voluntarily came forward and admitted to handling the fuses on the instrument cluster that activated the alarm. Six fuses were removed from the alarm in question, and one was partially reinserted.

The individual who handled the fuses is an employee of a subcontractor to Duratek Federal Services, the company contracted to remove asbestos and other hazardous material from the building.

Bechtel Jacobs oversees cleanup work for the Department of Energy.

"It has been determined that there was no malicious intent on behalf of the employee for this occurrence, and appropriate disciplinary action has been taken," Mr. Hill said. "It is my understanding that the employee was not fired."

The alarms are designed to alert personnel in the event of an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.