NIOSH Has Made No Radiation Dose Alterations on Huntington’s Former Uranium and Atomic Material Processing Plant Following March 2010 "Under-Estimate" Opinion by Project Manager

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Former HPP Plant
Former HPP Plant

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – During the odyssey of radiation dosage and their impact at the former uranium processing and uranium recycling (that’s with plutonium included) Huntington Pilot Plant, a senior radiation analyst from Sanford Cohen & Associates has worked on many radiation dose reconstructions. Dr. John Muro and his team serve as an ‘independent’ consultant that provides analysis to the Department of Energy , the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Mauro, SCA’s project manager, has in evaluations of former DOE plants determined that NIOSH estimates were underestimated. Three examples were Bethlehem Steel near Cheektowaga , NY., Pinellas Plant (Florida) , and Rocky Flats (near Denver, Colorado). He has testified before the House Judiciary Committee, and was an expert witness in the Bikini Atoll nuclear claim in the Marshall Islands. http://www.bikiniatoll.com/Nuclear%20Claims%20Tribunal%20Dec.pdf )

Although NIOSH/CDC completed a profile for the Huntington uranium plant, Dr. Mauro uncovered possible underestimates. These are revealed in a transcript of a March 22, 2010 meeting of the Advisory Board of Radiation and Worker Health that met in Cincinnati. At the March 2010 meeting in Cincinnati, committee members met to consider alterations in the “profiles” of eleven plants, including the one in Huntington, WV and another agenda item included reassessing radiation dose estimates on previously filed claims at all former DOE plants.

Mauro , in general, challenged nickel dust, birdcage, x-ray, residual contamination exposure from 1962-1978, and seven additional factors. One factor influencing alteration of projected dose reconstructions was the Huntington, WV plant received materials from all three diffusion plants, Chairman Mark Griffon stated, noting Portsmouth could run the highest.

To read the story about the dosage increase discussions, click: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/local/100721-rutherford-localexposure.html

The transcript of the March 22, 2010 meeting is here and begins on or about page 165: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ocas/pdfs/abrwh/2010/sctr032210.pdf

HNN contacted Dr. Mauro via e-mail with the questions posed below. They were forwarded to Chris Ellison, Communications Development Team Lead for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Division of Compensation Analysis and Support (DCAS)

Ellison stipulated that NIOSH evaluations are for occupational hazards and do not necessarily represent off-site evaluations. The agency , despite more advanced radiological detection devices, also refers to the 1994 letter to Huntington’s then Mayor Jean Dean that the site(s) have been decontaminated “to radiation levels low enough to allow unrestricted use of the property.”

In addition, he explained , “Our responsibilities do not pertain to non work-related exposures that occur to the general public.”

The Huntington Pilot Plant, classified as an atomic energy facility, processed nickel, uranium and plutonium contaminated materials from gaseous diffusion plants. When HPP began a recycling process to recover nickel and uranium , the plant itself became contaminated. After closure in 1962, the plant remained on stand-by until it  was disassembled and buried at a classified landfill in Piketon, Ohio in 1979. Other non-contaminated portions were taken to a private landfill.

HNN: Has there had been any work on revising the doses upward for the Huntington Reduction Pilot Plant?

ELLISON: NIOSH originally issued the Technical Basis Document (TBD) for the Huntington Pilot Plant on October 31, 2003. The document was revised on January 16, 2004, to resolve issues of exposure to electrons and make the document applicable to skin cancers. The TBD was again revised on August 18, 2008. This is the current document that is being used for the Huntington Pilot Plant. It was revised to include newly available references with additional internal and external dose evaluations. The TBD is available on our Web site on our individual site page for the Huntington Pilot Plant at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ocas/huntpp.html. Currently, NIOSH has no additional information indicating the doses in the TBD need to be revised. However, it is important to note that if any additional information should become available that indicates that the TBD needs to be revised, we will revise the document as needed.

HNN: In the March 2010 transcript there was a discussion of raising radiation limits and of residual radiation. Would these have an impact on past workers and dosages received by regarding studies impacting past workers and civilians who lived near the Huntington plant.

ELLISON: Prior to 1956, the Huntington plant did not process contaminated nickel. The plant processed contaminated nickel scrap received from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) starting in 1956. NIOSH’s role and EEOICPA includes only workers at covered facilities. In addition and previously stated above, the responsibilities of NIOSH are related to workplace safety and health. Our responsibilities do not pertain to non-work-related exposures that occur to the general public. In addition, NIOSH is not aware of any evidence that the materials at the facility would result in any significant increase to the background radiation doses in areas surrounding the facility. (Editor’s Note: The “prior to 1956” statement conflicts with other DOE documents which set the date as 1952.)

HNN: Should the site be re-tested now for radiation, considering the advancement in detection methods?

ELLISON: The AEC demolished the plant and decontaminated remaining pads and grounds. The compressor building was not demolished. The facility was decontaminated to radiation levels low enough to allow unrestricted use of the property. The radiation dose rates in the area were shown to be not significantly different than background levels. In 1994, the DOE sent a letter to the Mayor [Jean Dean] of Huntington, WV, indicating that the DOE FUSRAP program had completed a resurvey of the former Reduction Pilot Plant and determined the conditions at the site meet requirements for public health and protection of the environment.

HNN: Although a large portion of the HPP was buried on the grounds of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (in a classified section), other portions were then deemed non-contaminated and buried at another landfill. Do you have any concern regarding the potential seepage and contamination that may occur at the landfill where some debris from the facility was buried.

ELLISON: Pages 7-8 of the TBD discuss the burial of the facility debris and list the number of truckloads of debris that was disposed of at a commercial landfill. According to Department of Energy (DOE) records, contaminated debris was shipped to the DOE Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the commercial landfill received uncontaminated debris. NIOSH has no information on the environmental controls for the landfill.

[Editor's Note: Some former workers have told HNN that a pickeling process occurred and that the waste was taken nightly to what is now the Dietz Hollow landfill.]

HNN: Considering the reactor accident in Japan, do you have any guidance on its impact on the United States?

ELLISON: While the efforts continue in Japan to contain the release of airborne radioactive contamination from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant, various reports in the media have appeared. It is important to note that on March 17, President Obama stated: “We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it’s the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific…Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts do not recommend that people in the United States take precautionary measures beyond staying informed.”

NIOSH has developed a Workplace Safety and Health Topic Page, Radiation Dispersal from Japan, which provides information to help workers, employers, and occupational health professionals stay informed about ongoing Federal activities to address the release of airborne contamination from the damaged Japanese power plant. The page will be updated as new information becomes available. The Topic Page can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/radiation/. It is important to note that the responsibilities of NIOSH are related to workplace safety and health. Our responsibilities do not pertain to non work-related exposures that occur to the general public.

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