The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed an $8,000 fine for a Connecticut hospital for violations involving the temporary loss of a radioactive source used to calibrate nuclear medicine dosage-measuring equipment.
The event: According to a December 14 press release from the NRC, the agency received a report last year disclosing that a sealed radioactive source containing cesium-137 from St. Vincent Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., had been found at a biohazardous waste vendor’s facility in Woonsocket, R.I., after it set off radiation monitors. The vendor notified the hospital on October 27, 2021, that it had the source and placed it into storage. St. Vincent staff determined that the source had been inadvertently disposed of as biohazardous waste, and hospital personnel retrieved it and then properly disposed of it.
The result: The NRC conducted an inspection in response to the event and identified several apparent violations. The violations were documented in an inspection report issued on August 8 this year. The medical center was offered, and accepted, an opportunity to discuss the issues with the NRC at a predecisional enforcement conference.
During the session, held on September 15 at the NRC’s Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pa., St. Vincent representatives provided NRC staff with more information about the event and about completed and planned corrective actions to prevent recurrence of the apparent violations. Corrective actions include a review of nuclear medicine use and storage areas at the hospital, confirming a proper inventory of all unused sealed radioactive sources; actions to ensure the proper disposal of all unused sealed radioactive sources; and the enhancement of staff training on the handing of radioactive waste.
The fine: After considering all relevant information, including information presented at the conference, the NRC determined that the $8,000 fine was appropriate based on the violations stemming from the event. The NRC also documented a number of less significant violations related to the medical center’s failure to maintain an effective radiation safety program, as well as failure to implement an adequate radiation exposure monitoring program.
“While no employee or member of the public was harmed by the temporary loss of this sealed radioactive source, the NRC is concerned anytime there is breakdown in essential controls for such materials,” said David Lew, NRC Region I administrator. “St. Vincent’s has recognized what went wrong and taken steps to prevent another such event from occurring.”