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A radioactive threat found in the middle of America's fourth largest city raises alarm

A Houston Police Department officer driving to work last month felt the buzzing vibration alert of a cell-phone sized device provided by the federal government as part of a grant program.

The buzzing was no phone call. It was a warning, about dangerous levels of radiation, right in the midst of the fourth largest city in America.

And the detector that found it was one of 2,000 carried in Houston – and 56,000 nationwide – aimed at preventing terrorists from slipping a radiation-spewing “dirty bomb” onto American streets.

Now, budget fights in Congress and a House majority seeking major spending cuts mean the office that supplied those detectors is on the chopping block.

During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, representatives questioned the work of – and funding for – huge swaths of the federal security agencies, often focusing on border security.

But testimony that day from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas brought to light the work of one lesser-known arms of anti-terror work: the agency’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office.

He offered it as an example of where the system worked as intended, supporting a local agency to ward off disaster before it happened.

How 'hot' material ended up in a Houston scrap yard

As the detector buzzed Oct. 16, the Houston officer first suspected a false alarm. He circled his car back around to the same street. It went off again.

The detector, similar to a Geiger counter, was built to pick up gamma radiation. Soon, larger units arrived to help triangulate the radiation’s source.

DHS provides some officers backpack-sized devices. The agency says they can detect material as far as a mile away. It also provides truck-sized devices that can scan for radiation near major events like the Super Bowl and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Houston’s sensors led them to a recycling yard on the city’s northwest side. There, the bomb squad isolated containers the size of paint cans. Officers only needed to wear specialized protective gear when they were closest to the material, past a “turn-back line” alerted by their detectors.

The radiation was not coming from a dirty bomb. It was only harmful within a few feet. But it was real radiation.

The source was Cesium-137, a material used in commercial and industrial settings. It is found in medical radiation therapy devices to treat cancer. As the byproduct of nuclear fission, it’s also found at the scene of nuclear reactor disasters — think Chernobyl.

In Houston, the radiation-emitting canisters had been used as flow gauges at a chemical plant. Instead of being properly stored, they had ended up at the scrap yard.

A crew carefully recovered four radioactive sources and transferred them to a U.S. Department of Energy storage facility near San Antonio.

Texas authorities are investigating the chain of custody of the material to determine how it ended up in the scrap yard and how long it had been there. Owners of the yard, which police have not named, will not face penalties because they cooperated with authorities, said Sgt. James Luplow, a member of the HPD bomb squad.

“This is not a very common occurrence. We routinely encounter radioactive material, but nothing at this level,” Luplow said. “It’s a textbook example of having a lot of people cruising around with these detectors.”

The ongoing threat of radioactive waste

Radioactive material ends up in scrap yards and causes major headaches for workers and those called to dispose of it.

In 1984, a scrap metal sale in Mexico led to one of the largest radiation disasters in U.S. history. About 600 tons of radioactive steel from Juarez ended up in 28 states. In that case, Cobalt-60 pellets caused radiation poisoning where junkyard employees became nauseated, had their fingernails turn black and suffered sterilization.

With a 30-year half-life, cesium isotopes can present a long-lasting threat if not properly disposed of at a storage facility.

Radioactive contamination of scrap materials happens far more frequently than people realize, said Jessica Bufford, a senior program officer at the non-profit global security organization Nuclear Threat Initiative.

“We’re concerned that a determined adversary like a criminal group or terrorists or lone wolf actor could steal a cesium device and use it as part of a dirty bomb to cause panic,” Bufford said. “It could be transported in powder form easily through water or air and spread over a large area.”

The material found in the Houston scrap yard was discarded waste, not a dirty bomb. But authorities say the need for detecting the radiation is the same in either scenario.

“You’d be detecting bombs,” said Luplow, the Houston sergeant. “But we’d much prefer to find it just in the material form, and it’s a lot easier to deal with.”

'No border security, no funding'

The Houston incident first came to light when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified last week in front of the House panel.


Without naming the location, agency or date of the incident, Mayorkas said cryptically: “a local law enforcement officer equipped with some of the equipment we provide to detect radiological and nuclear material was wearing a device that detected abandoned material in a very unsafe location that could have caused tremendous harm to the people in the surrounding community.”

A DHS official referred further questions about details on the incident to Houston police.

The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office within DHS, created in 2018, had a five-year sunset clause and will shutter without reauthorization by Congress.

The Biden administration specifically lobbied key committees to save the DHS office and the jobs of roughly 230 employees plus 400 contractors. DHS officials want to see the office permanently funded. With a budget of $400 million a year, the staff works to detect chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

The office works with 14 “high-risk” urban areas: New York City; Newark and Jersey City; Los Angeles and Long Beach; the Washington, D.C. area; Houston; Chicago; Atlanta; Miami; Denver; Phoenix; San Francisco; Seattle; Boston; and New Orleans.

GOP members of the House Freedom Caucus have blasted the DHS border policy under Mayorkas and have demanded the cuts as leverage for change.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and 14 other Republicans signed on to a letter seeking no DHS funding until the changes: “No border security, no funding,” he wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Without approval, the office was set to shutter on Dec. 21. The current continuing resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Biden last week punts that deadline to February.

Nick Penzenstadler is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigations team. Contact him at npenz@usatoday.com or @npenzenstadler, or on Signal at (720) 507-5273.

Hello Dear People!


A big thank you to everyone who registered and attended our Community Learn-In last night! We had a fantastic turnout, shared good discussion, and are ready for the Public Hearing next Tuesday, November 28th at 6pm ET.

Register for the Public Hearing on Nov. 28th

It's actually something of a miracle that the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has granted us this hearing. In years past, we have been denied any kind of engagement on this permit and concerns around it. Again, THANK YOU to everyone who signed onto our public comment! The voices of the people made this happen. So, let's make good use of this hearing and pack the halls! All comments made at this hearing will go on the record in favor of protecting Lake Erie. Let's keep putting pressure on to Save Our Water and Our Health.

We have a range of resources available to support and educate ahead of the hearing. Check them out:

For those unable to attend and anyone wanting to replay the learn-in, you can watch the recording here. During the meeting, we got some great training on how to compose a comment for a public hearing, including examples of good vs bad comments, and practicing in front of an audience.

Here's something to remember: you don't need to be a nuclear expert to speak out against this dirty industry and the impact it has on our communities. We want to honor the wide range of experience, education, and bandwidth of our community showing up. All of us do not need to be experts on the topic. It is completely fine to step forward at the hearing and state: "This is who I am, these are our demands, and this is why this is important to me." What's important is that we are unified in saying NO to the pollution of our Great Lakes.

On the Resources page of our website, we have some documents shared to help prepare for the hearing. The first document, the Community Learn-In Resource, is one page laying out the building blocks for your comment. This is a great baseline to review if you're new to making statements and it spells out the demands CRAFT is making of Michigan and DTE.

If you would like a deeper dive into the issues at hand, the second and third documents in our resources are the public comments CRAFT submitted to EGLE regarding the offending permit. You can read more about the technical details of the permit if you are interested in engaging in discussions of greater depth.

Public Comment Resources

Again, it is not only fine but encouraged for there to be a variety of levels of experience and education among those of us speaking out. We will all find our place in the broad scope of who is willing to stand for our waters and for public health.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th, at 6pm ET. Use the link below to register. We encourage you to indicate that you would like to make a comment in the registration but it is not necessary. You can opt to comment at the meeting, but you will be added to the back of the queue.

If you are not able to attend, EGLE will still receive written comments after the hearing and we will follow up with those instructions next week.

Register for the Public Hearing on Nov. 28th

If you want to sign up for text reminders about the hearing, follow the link here:

Sign Up for Text Reminders

Only the PEOPLE will hold DTE accountable and stand to protect our health. We hope that you'll join us!

Thank you all so much, here is to a safe and just energy future.

Peace and Safety,


The CRAFT Team

Donate to Support

Citizen's Resistance At Fermi Two (CRAFT) is an Indigenous-led, grassroots, organization, committed to an accessible, fair, and just energy future for all! CRAFT originally formed after the Christmas Day 1993 incident at the Fermi2 nuclear reactor that dumped 1.5 million gallons of untreated toxic, radioactive water into Lake Erie. We will continue to push for the closing of Fermi2, and for a safer world powered by renewables.



Dismantling the San Onofre nuclear power plant is more than 60% completed

Work in the reactor cavities is about 96 percent done. When finished, the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water will be purified to the level of acceptable drinking water so it can safely be discharged into the ocean.



Beyond Nuclear Bulletin
November 16, 2023

Triple global nuclear capacity
John Kerry, now Special Presidential Climate Envoy to the 28th Conference of Parties in Dubai, will be lobbying to triplethe world’s installed nuclear generating capacity by 2050. Kerry is to be joined by the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Finland and South Korea in declaring that the World Bank and other international financial institutions add nuclear power to their lending practices. Kerry’s request constitutes a reversal of World Bank lending policy for the past 64 years. The last nuke loan by the Bank was in 1959, $40 million for Italy’s first atomic reactor. “We don’t do nuclear energy” the Bank proclaimed in 2013 and to date still directs energy development resources to the global installation of efficiency and renewable energy.

Read More

Legislature partially repeals moratorium
Thank you to everyone who took action, as we forwarded alerts from Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago (NEIS) over the past many weeks. Unfortunately, despite NEIS and its supporters’ best efforts, on November 10 the Illinois state legislature partially repealed the state’s many decades-old new nuclear reactor construction moratorium. Ironically enough, the state legislature’s unwise and reckless move came at the very same time as the lead Small Modular Reactor (SMR) development project in the U.S., NuScale’s targeting Idaho, was cancelled due to skyrocketing costs. See the NEIS statement prepared by its director, Dave Kraft -- who has led moratorium defense efforts for years -- in response to the partial repeal of the moratorium, at the link below.

Read More

Incidents across U.S. raise concerns
On November 8, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake epicentered in west Texas led to an alert declaration at a gaseous centrifuge uranium enrichment facility in Eunice, New Mexico. Despite no reported hazardous or radioactive releases, the tremor raised concerns regarding two high-level radioactive waste consolidated interim storage facilities proposed in the area: one co-located at the so-called “low-level" radioactive waste dump, planned by Interim Storage Partners for Andrews County, TX, near Eunice; and Holtec's about 35 miles from Eunice in NM. Fasken/Permian Basin Land & Royalty Owners continue their years-long battle against licenses for both CISFs, including defending a ruling in August nullifying ISP's license. Meanwhile, Holtec was fined by NRC for shipping excessively radioactive decommissioning equipment from MA to NY.


Read More

Let’s stop it
Nuclear madness is everywhere. Our government is determined to promote new reactors and the continued use of dangerous old ones, as long as we pay for them. Executives and politicians have even been convicted of crimes to ensure this happens. The media laps up the rhetoric and parrots the lie that nuclear power is “carbon-free”. Yet, spending those same dollars on renewables would get us more carbon reductions faster and without all the deadly risks of nuclear power. 
That’s why we need your support now more than ever to block these dangerous proposals at every step including through legal action. If you agree that nuclear power is NOT the answer to the climate crisis, please donate to Beyond Nuclear today.


Beyond Nuclear | 301.270.2209 | www.BeyondNuclear.org


Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: 23-075 November 16, 2023
CONTACT: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200
NRC Makes Available Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant License Renewal Application
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made available an application from Pacific Gas & Electric to renew the operating licenses for Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, in Avila Beach, California.
PG&E filed on Nov. 7 an application seeking to renew the licenses for an additional 20 years of operation. Diablo Canyon’s pressurized-water reactors, about 12 miles southwest of San Luis Obispo, are currently licensed to operate through Nov. 2, 2024, for Unit 1 and through Aug. 26, 2025, for Unit 2.
The NRC staff is reviewing the application to determine if it is sufficiently complete to begin the agency’s extensive safety and environmental reviews. If the application is determined to be complete, the staff will docket it and publish a notice of opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The reactors’ licenses will then remain valid, under an exemption from agency regulations, until the agency’s review is complete.
Information about the license renewal process is available on the NRC website. A copy of the Diablo Canyon license renewal application will be available at the San Luis Obispo Library, 995 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo.
Document Title:
 Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station - Pre-Notice of Disbursement from Decommissioning Trust
Document Type:
Document Date:


 Will Wade, Bloomberg News, 8 Nov 2023
BLOOMBERG — NuScale Power Corp., the first company with US approval for a small nuclear reactor designis canceling plans to build a power plant for a Utah provider as costs surge. The move is a major setback to the burgeoning technology that has been heralded as the next era for atomic energy.
The company and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems agreed to cancel the [self-styled]  Carbon Free Power Project, according to a statement Wednesday. NuScale shares slumped as much as 42%, the biggest intraday decline since the Portland, Oregon-based firm went public through a 2022 merger with a blank-check company.
The decision to terminate the project underscores the hurdles the industry faces to place the first so-called small modular reactor into commercial service in the country. NuScale is part of a wave of companies developing smaller reactors that will be manufactured in factories and assembled on site, a strategy that’s expected to make them faster and cheaper than conventional nuclear plants.
Salt Lake City-based UAMPS [Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems] supplies wholesale electric services to about 50 municipal utilities in the US West. The companies had said that UAMPS members or other utilities needed to commit to buying 80% of the project’s power for it to be feasible. NuScale has agreed to pay UAMPS a termination fee of $49.8 million. 
“The customer made it clear we needed to reach 80%, and that was just not achievable,” NuScale Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins said on a conference call Wednesday. “Once you’re on a dead horse, you dismount quickly. That’s where we are here.”
Critics have warned that costs for the NuScale project were climbing. The company said in 2021 it would deliver power for $58 a megawatt-hour, but that figure has jumped 53% to $89, according to a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Read More: Nuclear Plant $16 Billion Over Budget Arrives for Atomic Revival
Nuclear energy has seen a recent resurgence as intensifying climate change boosts the appeal of the carbon-free power source. But the major costs involved in building new plants have been a stumbling block for the industrySouthern Co.’s Vogtle project is nearing completion and will be the first newly constructed US reactors in decades — but it came in billions over budgetOne of the promises of smaller reactors is that they were supposed to be easier to build, which would limit cost overruns.
The Carbon Free Power Project would have used six of NuScale’s 77-megawatt reactors, installed at Idaho National Laboratory. It had been expected to begin delivering power in 2029. 
The project, which was granted a $1.4 billion cost-sharing award with the Department of Energy in 2020, has received $232 million of that funding, according to the department. 
“We absolutely need advanced nuclear energy technology to meet ambitious clean energy goals,” the DOE said in a statement. “First-of-a-kind deployments, such as CFPP, can be difficult.”
—With assistance from Ari Natter.ed Nov 08, 2023
NuScale ends Utah project, in blow to US nuclear power ambitions
By Timothy Gardner and Manas Mishra, REUTERS, November 9, 2023
Nov 8 (Reuters) - (This Nov. 8 story has been corrected to show that the Energy Department provided $600 million to NuScale and others to commercialize small reactor technology, not $600 million provided to NuScale, in paragraph 2)
NuScale Power (SMR.N) said on Wednesday it has agreed with a power group in Utah to terminate the company's small modular reactor project, dealing a blow to U.S. ambitions for a wave of nuclear energy to fight climate change and sending NuScale's shares down 20%.
In 2020, the Department of Energy approved $1.35 billion over 10 years for the plant, known as the Carbon Free Power Project, subject to congressional appropriations. The department has provided NuScale and others about $600 million since 2014 to support commercialization of small reactor technologies.
NuScale had planned to develop the six-reactor 462 megawatt project with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and launch it in 2030, but several towns pulled out of the project as costs rose.
John Hopkins, NuScale's president and CEO, said in a release that the company will continue with its other domestic and international customers to bring American small modular reactor (SMR) technology to market and increase the U.S. nuclear manufacturing bases.
NuScale hopes to build SMRs in Romania, Kazakhstan, Poland and Ukraine. Critics have warned that Russia's takeover of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine -- along with repeated shelling near it, power cuts, and perils to the plant's water cooling resources -- means that reactors, which can release toxic, radioactive materials when disasters strike, should not be built in the region.
NuScale's Utah plant was expected to be the first SMR to win a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for construction. But NuScale said it appeared unlikely the project will have enough subscription to continue toward deployment.
NuScale said in January the target price for power from the plant was $89 per megawatt hour, up 53% from the previous estimate of $58 per MWh, raising concerns about customers' willingness to pay.
An Energy Department spokesperson said it was unfortunate news, but added, "We believe the work accomplished to date on CFPP will be valuable for future nuclear energy projects.
"While not every project is guaranteed to succeed, DOE remains committed to doing everything we can to deploy these technologies to combat the climate crisis and increase access to clean energy," the spokesperson said.
Existing U.S. nuclear plants, which are larger, provide nearly half of the virtually carbon-free power generated in the U.S.
SMRs are meant to fit new applications such as replacing shut coal plants and being located in remote communities.
Backers have said the design was safer than today's reactors, but critics have said SMRs still produce hazardous nuclear waste.
So far, only NuScale's SMR design has been approved by the NRC.
The public U.S. money for NuScale was awarded through a non-competitive funding vehicle that came before the energy and climate bills passed during the Biden administration.
Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Krishna Chandra Eluri and Leslie Adler
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
NuScale small nuclear reactor project in Idaho canceled
Customers "dodge a debacle" as Utah utility UAMPS pulls the plug on the US' first SMR
By Peter Judge, Data Center Dynamics (data magazine,) November 9, 2023
Plans to build the US' first small modular reactor (SMR) in Idaho have been canceled.
The power utility Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), and the reactor company NuScale, have announced they will cancel the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), a small modular reactor (SMR) project that was to be built at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
The data center industry has recently been eyeing up SMRs as a cost-effective way to acquire low-carbon energy. NuScale has signed a deal with blockchain firm Standard Power to build 24 of the units, each providing 77MW. However, in recent weeks, NuScale has faced investigation by lawyers, after a short seller report claimed that the Standard Power deal was likely to fail.
“We're happy for the communities and ratepayers who have dodged a huge financial debacle as a result of the cancellation of NuScale and UAMPS' proposed SMR project," said David Schlissel, director of resource planning analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and author of a critical 2022 analysis of the project.
"As we have repeatedly shown, this project and the other SMRs that are being hyped by the nuclear industry and its allies are simply too late, too expensive, too uncertain, and too risky," said Schlissel. "There are less risky and more proven alternatives for addressing growing energy needs and the global warming crisis.”
Explaining the decision, a joint statement on the UAMPS site yesterday said: “Despite significant efforts by both parties to advance the CFPP, it appears unlikely that the project will have enough subscription to continue toward deployment. UAMPS and NuScale have mutually determined that ending the project is the most prudent decision for both parties.”
UAMPS, a non-profit utility owned by the State of Utah, which provides power to states in the inter-mountain region, originally planned the CFPP to include 12 NuScale SMR power modules delivering 720MW. The project was due to be funded by subscriptions from towns in the region, but it was scaled back to six modules (462MW) when these subscriptions lagged.
"All indications were that the project was on schedule for the first NuScale Power Module to begin generating power in 2029, with the remaining modules coming online for full plant operation by 2030" reports Aaron Larson on Power, "but the project came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday."
The decision was welcomed by Rusty Cannon, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, in a statement: “As we have said for many years, taxpayer-funded entities should not be acting as venture capitalists on risky projects, no matter what the nature of the project is. This welcome news for taxpayers in Utah confirms what reasonable voices surrounding this project have known and spoken about for years- that it was doomed to fail.”
Warning bells had been sounded since at least November 2022, when Schlissel's IEEFA report said that the project's cost estimates had "ballooned" from $55 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to a "shocking" $90-$100 MWh, leaving the project’s future in serious doubt.
Schlissel pointed to "the long history of delayed and over-budget projects that have plagued the nuclear industry," warning that the project would require even bigger subsidies from federal taxpayers.
In 2020, the Department of Energy gave the CFPP a $1.4bn subsidy. Cannon commented: "It’s uncertain what will happen to federal subsidy now that the project has been terminated."
In recent CFPP project management meetings, CFPP project director Shawn Hughes had reported that CFPP had met or exceeded all planned milestones, and was on track to get the necessary license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
UAMPS remained positive in October, saying: “The project’s progress not only represents major achievements for CFPP as a specific entity but also within the broader context of the development of small modular nuclear reactors.”
But potential subscribers were not convinced and refused to sign up for the higher power prices, leading to the decision to pull the plug. UAMPS CEO Mason Baker said (in the release): “This decision is very disappointing given the years of pioneering hard work put into the CFPP by UAMPS, CFPP LLC, NuScale, US Department of Energy, and the UAMPS member communities that took the leadership role to launch the CFPP."
NuScale CEO John Hopkins put a positive light on the decision: “Through our work with UAMPS and our partnership with the US Department of Energy [DOE], we have advanced our NuScale Power Modules to the point that utilities, governments, and industrials can rely on a proven small modular reactor (SMR) technology that has regulatory approval and is in active production."
Although CFPP had been canceled, he said that in 10 years of work, NuScale had reached a milestone of having an SMR ready for commercial deployment, and promised to build on this: “NuScale will continue with our other domestic and international customers to bring our American SMR technology to market and grow the US nuclear manufacturing base, creating jobs across the US. We thank UAMPS for the collaboration that has enabled this advancement.”
As well as the controversial Standard Power deal, NuScale has an agreement with Nucor Corporation, to explore using SMRs to power steel mills which create metal from recycled steel. NuScale is also researching using nuclear power to make hydrogen with Shell.
The company has also initiated a project aimed at building an SMR in Poland.
NuScale's shares had already fallen 80 percent, since a high of nearly $15 in August 2022, to around $3 yesterday. Since the announcement, they have dropped to around $2.
Nuclear Reuglatory Commission - News Release
No: I-23-015 November 9, 2023
CONTACT: Diane Screnci, 610-337-5330
Neil Sheehan, 610-337-5331
NRC Proposes $43,750 Civil Penalty for Shipment of Equipment from Oyster Creek that Exceeded Radiation Limits
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a $43,750 fine for Holtec Decommissioning International for shipping radioactive materials in a package exceeding regulatory transportation limits.
The package, which contained decommissioning equipment, was shipped in an open transport vehicle from the Oyster Creek site in Lacey Township, New Jersey, to the Indian Point site in Buchanan, New York, where the radiation levels were detected on the outside surface. Holtec owns and is decommissioning both nuclear power plants.
There was no impact to the public as a consequence of this incident. The elevated radioactivity levels were confined to the top of the package and were not accessible to the public while in transit.
“This enforcement action reinforces that the NRC will hold licensees accountable if they don’t meet the requirements,” said NRC Region I Administrator Raymond Lorson. “We expect nuclear plant personnel to be diligent and ensure that no shipments are leaving their facilities that could in any way adversely affect the public.”
The NRC documented the Oyster Creek proposed violation in an August inspection report. In a separate finding, the NRC identified a “Severity Level IV” violation at Indian Point for Holtec’s failure to make a timely report to the NRC when the shipping package radiation level was found to exceed the regulatory limits. Holtec personnel at Indian Point should have reported it immediately but did not notify the NRC until the following day. This violation is lowest of four levels because there were no or relatively inappreciable safety consquences.
Holtec acknowledged the violation in a written response and provided corrective actions it has taken or will put in place to prevent a recurrence.
Nuclear Reuglatory Commission - News Release
No: I-23-014 November 9, 2023
CONTACT: Diane Screnci, 610-337-5330
Neil Sheehan, 610-337-5331
NRC Proposes $17,500 Fine to Puerto Rico Firm for Apparent Violation Involving Nuclear Gauge
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a $17,500 civil penalty against a Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, firm for failing to dispose of or transfer a portable nuclear gauge and complete decommissioning of its site within the required time period.
Almonte Geo Services Group was licensed by the NRC to own and possess portable gauges containing small amounts of radioactive material. The gauges are used for such purposes as measuring the density of soil at construction sites.
In September 2015, the NRC issued an order revoking the company’s license for failing to pay fees it owed to the agency. Under the order, Almonte was required to dispose of or transfer its nuclear gauges to another authorized party within 60 days. The company eventually transferred two of its gauges and began decommissioning activities, but retained one other gauge.
The NRC issued a notice of violation in February and informed Almonte that the agency would consider a imposing a fine if the company did not take action to dispose of the remaining gauge.
“The NRC’s primary interest is in ensuring such gauges are licensed, used and stored properly, and that they do not fall into the wrong hands, possibly harming those not familiar with the radioactive contents,” NRC Region I Administrator Raymond Lorson said.
While the company is no longer licensed to possess or use this gauge, the NRC has verified that the gauge is being properly secured at Almonte’s facility to prevent unauthorized access or removal.