NRC proposes fine for Urenco violations

April 10, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a notice dated March 30 to Urenco USA regarding a proposed $70,000 civil penalty for two violations related to the improper implementation of safety controls at the company’s commercial enrichment facility in Eunice, N.M., which is operated by Louisiana Energy Services. The NRC publicly announced the proposed fine on April 3.

The violations: According to the NRC, the first violation occurred in March 2022, when three construction vehicles were parked near a building that handles uranium hexafluoride with no physical barriers in place. After Urenco staff discovered the vehicles, the company notified the NRC, which began a special investigation of the incident. The agency reported its findings in May of last year.

The second violation occurred in June 2022, when an employee failed to follow established safety procedures for trucks entering an area near a building containing uranium hexafluoride cylinders. Plant managers informed the NRC of the incident, and the agency conducted an investigation in August.

Investigation findings: Following its investigations, the NRC concluded that Urenco neglected to implement adequate safety measures during both the March and June incidents. According to the NRC, “The company did not take enough precautions to prevent a potential accident sequence involving construction vehicles damaging the facility or the uranium hexafluoride inside—increasing the risk to plant workers and the public.”

Notification and response: The NRC initially notified Urenco last December of its findings regarding the two apparent violations. The company responded in February, taking responsibility for the violations and proposing corrective actions. After reviewing Urenco’s response, the NRC concluded that, although no radioactive materials were released in either of the incidents, the violations warranted a fine because of their potential safety consequences.

Urenco has 30 days to either pay the proposed fine or contest the decision. The NRC’s final determination on the fine will be made following its receipt of Urenco’s response to the new notice.

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