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article image195 Ontario workers waiting for radiation test

By Stephanie Dearing     Feb 18, 2010 in Health
The workers had been working on the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant, located in Ontario near Owen Sound. Testing to determine the levels of exposure is currently underway.
Ottawa, ON - At first it was thought that 217 workers had been exposed to the very dangerous Alpha radiation while refurbishing Reactor A in November 2009, but authorities have since lowered the number to 195 employees. The 19 employees thought to be at highest risk of exposure have been tested, but results for only 14 have come back to date, and are said to be less than half of the amount of safe exposure levels. All the other employees will have to wait months for their test results. The exposure was reviewed at a meeting of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Thursday. After hearing from Bruce Power representatives, Ronald Barriault, who sits on the Commission said "It's more by good fortune than by good industrial hygiene management that you don't have a serious problem in the sense of radiation sickness." There was no indication that Bruce Power would face some sort of discipline over the incident.
Bruce Power anticipates tests for the remaining workers will also show low levels of exposure. However, according to a document released to the Globe & Mail, CNSC said on Wednesday "... Preliminary dose calculations indicated that an "action level for inhalation of airborne radioactivity may have been exceeded." After meeting with Bruce Power on Thursday, CNSC hastened to allay fears by saying the incident did not pose a health risk to the workers, and the public was never in any danger as the Alpha radiation was contained in the plant.
The testing is slow because the Chalk River facility is the only one in Canada accredited for the testing, and it can only take 10 samples a week. Bruce Power is looking for an acceptable facility in the United States to help hasten the testing.
Many of the exposed workers were contractors. Ontario's Premier, Dalton McGuinty expressed concern for the health and safety of workers who were exposed to the radiation.
The CNSC said that Bruce Power failed to properly monitor the air for the Alpha particles, which Bruce Power management admitted during the meeting Thursday. Since the incident, Bruce Power has established a monitoring system for Alpha radiation.
Bruce Power is owned by BPC Infrastructure Trust, Cameco Corporation, Postal Workers Union, The Society of Energy Professionals and TransCanada. The BPC Infrastructure Trust is owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.
Canada sets limits on radiation exposure for nuclear energy workers, with a threshold of 100mSv (10000 mrem/5 years) per year, although the government recommends that workers only receive an exposure of an "... average annual dose of 0.05 Sv (50 mSv)." 12mSvs is ".. equivalent to an estimated 600 conventional chest X-rays, or about 100 mammograms."
There are several types of radiation: alpha, beta, gamma, xray and neutrons.
More about Bruce nuclear power, Radiation exposure, Alpha radiation, Canadian nuclear safety commission
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