[ RadSafe ] Florida Explosion involving Kr-85: HPs to the rescue

Walter Cofer radcontrol at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 1 23:54:51 CST 2006

My source told me the FL Bureau of Radiation Control was contacted promptly,
and responded quickly.  Unison has a Jacksonville-based HP consultant on
contract who is a friend and colleague, so when I got word of the accident,
I called him on his cell and caught him just as he was leaving the site.  He
said the BRC inspection supervisor from Jax was on scene taking

The head of the BRC emergency response section is quoted in one article: "We
do not know what the concentration was of what was in the cylinder that
exploded," said John Williamson, administrator of the environmental
radiation section of the state Department of Health. "We believe it was in
the millicurie range. If that is correct, that would present a very low
risk. The risk to the general public would be almost immeasurable, it would
be so low."

Also quoted was Kevin Nelson, RSO for the Mayo Clinic in Jax.  Kevin, a CHP
and active in the national HPS and FL chapter, advised the authorities on
the Kr-85 gas; here is what one article said:

"Nelson said a person who was standing next to the explosion could have
absorbed, at most, two times the amount of radiation a person receives
yearly from background sources like the sun. But anyone even a little
distance away, like in another room, wouldn't be affected at all, he said.
He said the maximum exposure would be even lower if it turned out the
exploded canister that was not full. Nelson said the gas released Monday
dissipated so fast that there would be no health or safety risk for Unison
workers reporting to work there today."

I know all these guys, so I'm not surprised that having them available to
provide guidance (and good quotes) went a long way toward ensuring the
accident didn't get too blown out of proportion.  I still felt the media
reports were somewhat misleading, but I've seen a lot worse.  The opening
statements in one article said that there was no health risk for workers
returning to the plant, and that the exposures were to "trace amounts of
radiation."  However, I suspect some readers might think that the people
taken to the hospital complaining of being lightheaded, nauseous, having
high-blood pressure, etc. were suffering from radiation-induced effects,
which is patently impossible based on my understanding of events.

What wasn't reported (and just as well) is that, according to my consultant
colleague, the OSHA inspectors who came to investigate refused to enter the
explosion zone until they were provided with dosimetry.  If that's true, I
guess no one could get it across to them that in this case, personnel
monitoring badges weren't worth the bother (or delay).  Sounds like the OSHA
folks might need some radiation fundamentals refresher training.

As for the decon efforts, according to one article, 73 people were tested
with Geiger counters and were told to remove their clothing at a decon tent;
no one had to take showers.  I suspect they felt removing Kr-85 saturated
clothes would reduce the exposures.  Nothing wrong with that approach,
though I hope they got their clothes back; the gas should have dissipated
fairly quickly.  

On the bright side: no fatalities, and the emergency responders got some
real world practice.

Walt Cofer
Radiation Control, Inc.
Tallahassee, FL


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf
Of Bradt, Clayton (LABOR)
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2006 12:59 PM
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: [ RadSafe ] RE: Florida Blast Releases Low Level 

If only they had called the State radiation control program!

Clayton J. Bradt, CHP
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