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Update: Tests Confirm No Radioactivity Release to Environment from IAEA Seibersdorf Lab After 3 August Incident

2008/10

Independent analysis has confirmed that there was no release of radioactive material to the environment following an incident at the IAEA´s Seibersdorf Laboratory on 3 August. The test results were provided by the Austrian Research Centers (ARC), from analysis of soil, plant and water samples collected from outside the IAEA´s Laboratories in Seibersdorf, where the incident occurred. The radiation protection experts of the ARC confirmed the initial findings from the laboratory´s automatic monitoring system which indicated that there had been no release of radioactivity to the environment. Since the incident, constant air monitoring near the laboratory, undertaken by the IAEA, has also provided no evidence of any radioactive contamination. A tiny amount of plutonium contained in an acid solution spilled from five small glass vials when one of them burst after a build up of pressure in it. The vials were stored in a secure steel safe. In total there was less than one gram of plutonium in the five vials. The material was in the laboratory for scientific reference purposes and virtually all of the contamination was confined within the steel walled safe. As previously reported, the automatic alarm was triggered when highly sensitive detectors of the continuous air monitoring system identified minor amounts of radioactive aerosols in the storage room containing the safe. The air contamination was trapped entirely in the filters of the ventilation system. No one was working in the laboratory at the time of the accident, which occurred at 02:31. The IAEA emergency response team promptly secured and sealed off the windowless storage room. An investigation into the circumstances and causes of the incident is still underway. In the meantime the first stage of the clean-up of the storage room was successfully completed on Friday, 22 August. According to the IAEA´s nuclear regulator´s assessment of the incident, the lab´s safety systems worked properly and successfully contained the contamination. The incident was rated as level 1 (anomaly) on the Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) of events. The INES scale has seven categories, the most serious being a "major accident." The IAEA´s Laboratories in Seibersdorf are located about 35 km southeast of Vienna. The laboratories provide research and training in applying nuclear science to environmental protection, insect pest control, plant breeding, human and animal health, as well as physical and chemical studies, and nuclear instrumentation. The Safeguards Analytical Laboratory, where the incident occurred, undertakes most of the IAEA´s analysis of nuclear material samples (very small quantities of uranium or plutonium), collected by its safeguards inspectors from civilian nuclear facilities, as part of its normal verification work.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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