* Workers contaminated with plutonium at LANL.

* "Subcritical" nuclear test to be detonated in Nevada.

* EPA fines Brookhaven National Laboratory for safety violations.

* Nuclear accident drill to take place on March 14.

* Despite protective gear, four Los Alamos National Laboratory employees were exposed to plutonium contamination last week in two separate incidents. In the first occurrence, the hazardous radioactive metal escaped from a supposedly sealed container into the air of a room at the lab's top-secret plutonium facility. Workers left the room when radioactivity was detected on their protective clothing. Lab officials claim that radiation exposure was minimal for the workers, but said that the airborne radioactivity inside the room could have been a concern, if the workers had not been wearing respirators. Despite the protective clothing and respirators, one of the workers had plutonium contamination on the skin of his chest, and another had traces of plutonium on his hair and nostrils, suggesting that he could have inhaled plutonium as powder. Plutonium is most deadly when inhaled, and may cause cancer. Lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold suggested that perhaps the seal on the exposed worker's respirator was inadequate. The worker in question will be monitored to determine whether plutonium oxide entered his body.

Later that day in a second incident, a worker's inner clothing and the badge and keys around his neck showed contamination. Both incidents involved the use of glove boxes, which have portals and leadlined gloves that allow workers to handle radioactive materials inside the boxes. In the second incident, the glove in the box, which had been certified four days earlier as safe, proved to have a pinhole leak. These exposures come at a time when the U. S. Department of Energy is pressuring the University of California, which operates the lab, to make LANL safer or lose part of its fee. Lab supervisors in the section were asked to remind workers to make sure plutonium cans are well sealed and to check all the seals on face respirators.

* The next "subcritical" nuclear test to be conducted by the DOE will be detonated at the LYNER (U1a) facility at the Nevada Test Site this month. The test, named "Stagecoach," was designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and is scheduled for late March. It will utilize 2 pounds 13 ounces of plutonium and 255 pounds of high explosives. Subcritical tests are so termed because DOE claims that a self-sustaining chain reaction that can lead to a nuclear explosion in a weapon will not be initiated in these tests. Therefore the Department argues that these tests do not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions. Three other tests have been scheduled for detonation this fiscal year. Each test was originally scheduled to cost 15-20 million dollars, but costs of early tests reportedly were doubled. The tests are part of the DOE's larger Stockpile Stewardship and Management (SSM) Program.

* According to the New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency asked for 80 thousand dollars in fines for safety violations uncovered at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, NY last year. The E.P.A. said it would fine both the lab's owner, the DOE, and the former operator of the laboratory complex, Associated Universities Inc. When the problems were first revealed by an environmental inspection, lab officials said they were taking corrective measures. Since that time, other hazards, including leaks of radioactive tritium, caused DOE officials to levy their own fines on Associated Universities, and terminate its contract. A new manager took over the laboratory on March 1. Violations included malfunctioning monitors for nitrogen oxide emissions from boilers, unauthorized disposal of liquid waste into over 200 injection wells, failure to determine that silver-bearing waste was hazardous, and disposing of it improperly in a sewage treatment plant. The lab claimed that it had fixed the emissions monitors and tightened its waste disposal procedures.

* Santa Fe emergency-response teams will hold a nuclear accident drill near the intersection of Airport Road and NM 5999 on March 14. The drill will give citizens a chance to see how a traffic accident involving nuclear waste would be handled. The exercise will begin about 8 a.m., Saturday, March 14, and will last about two hours. A collision will be simulated between a cement truck and a semi carrying Tru- Pac containers.

Because it will occur outside the city limits, volunteer firemen, not the city's paid firemen, will be the "first responders," said Mary Ellen Carroll, the city's public information officer. City, county, state, and federal agencies will be called in, as well as the DOE, because of the imaginary nuclear payload. Simulated injuries will be taken to St. Vincents's emergency room.

The incident will have a 160-foot "hot zone," and bystanders within it may be drafted into the scenario. Space will be cordoned off for the media and spectators

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