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Source: Jeffrey Geuther, 785-532-6657, geuther@k-state.edu

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

NRC APPROVES UNIVERSITY REACTOR SAFETY STEPS

MANHATTAN -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued one violation in connection with a minor radiation exposure at Kansas State University's nuclear research reactor, but the agency is waiving its usual fine because of K-State's safe reactor operating record and proactive response addressing safety procedures.

The NRC's Inspection Report and Notice of Violation follows a Sept. 22 incident at the reactor in which a senior reactor operator was exposed to a minor amount of radiation. The exposure did not result in injury or a radiation dose in excess of federal limits. But it was taken seriously by both K-State and the NRC, which conducted a special inspection, said Jeff Geuther, manager of K-State's reactor facility.

The NRC found one severity level III violation in connection with the incident, but the agency has waived its normal penalty of $3,500 for such violations. The level III violation is the NRC's lowest level of escalated enforcement, Geuther said.

"Because the K-State reactor has a history of safe operation and because of the thoroughness of our corrective actions to the incident, the NRC's base civil penalty was waived for the violation, and no additional follow-up actions or response to the notice of violation are required," Geuther said.

According to the NRC, the level III violation was for failure to develop, document and implement a radiation protection program commensurate with the scope and extent of licensed activities and that was sufficient to ensure compliance with the appropriate regulations.

"Essentially the NRC found that our radiation protection program and experimental procedure were not sufficient to prevent the incident from occurring," Geuther said. "We have since taken the necessary steps to correct these deficiencies."

K-State's reactor was shut down after the incident but has since been restarted. The reactor, which has been in operation since 1962, supports academic and education programs, research, industrial service and outreach.