New Mexico Uranium Enrichment Plant to Address Two Apparent Violations

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has threatened enforcement action against a New Mexico uranium enrichment plant following what the agency described as two instances of inadequate criticality safeguards.

The NRC on Friday announced it scheduled an enforcement conference this week with Urenco subsidiary Louisiana Energy Services to discuss two apparent violations discovered during a routine inspection in November. The first involved a record-keeping mistake that resulted in an incorrect log of the mass of uranium in bottles undergoing decontamination, according to an inspection report. The facility fixed the problem and confirmed that a minimum critical mass had not been exceeded. Nonetheless, the NRC classified the situation as a "failure of the management measures to ensure that items relied on for safety (IROFS) were implemented such that they were available and reliable."

The second apparent violation involved bottles of the same type that were handled in a Plexiglas box on a cart. While as few as eight bottles could hold a critical mass of uranium, inspectors concluded the facility did not have adequate accident-prevention procedures in place related to the cart and should have reported the condition to the NRC. LES will have a chance to present additional information to the NRC at the public meeting Friday, and the agency will make an enforcement decision at a later date.

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