The U.S. Energy Dept. announced Nov. 17 that it plans to fine CH2M Hill Hanford Group (CHG), which manages tank storage and retrieval of radioactive and hazardous wastes at the agency's former nuclear weapons production site in Washington state, for nuclear safety violations that resulted in two incidents of radioactive contamination of employees. DOE issued a preliminary notice of violation against the firm, a unit of CH2M Hill Cos., Denver, and is also proposing a $82,500 civil penalty.

DOE says that in one incident in March, employees were contaminated during an operation involving removal of a camera from a radioactively contaminated catch tank. The other incident, whiich occurred in September 2005, contamination occurred when personnel were disconnecting a stirage tank support hose
"that was both pressurized and internally contaminated," says DOE. But the agency noted that in both incidents, employee exposure did not exceed DOE regulatory limits. While DOE said the potential violations indicate that CHG failed to effectively control radiological hazards and to properly manage equipment used to respond to radiological contamination events, the proposed fine also "reflects mitigation granted by the department for prompt, corrective actions taken by CHG to prevent recurrence." The contractor must respond to DOE's action in 30 days and include evidence of additional corrective actions taken.

"Our goal is to maintain the highest standards of safety performance," says CH2M HILL President and CEO Mark Spears. "The events cited in the enforcement action clearly fell below the mark. We partnered with our workforce to improve our processes and the dramatic improvement in our safety and compliance performance over the past year is testament to the effectiveness of these actions and the quality of our workers."

DOE's action is authorized by the 1988 federal Price-Anderson Amendments Act, which enforces nuclear safety rules.