[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Blue Glow

Just for the record.  The information on the "Blue Glow" at the Paducah site
was taken from an ATR (Assessment and Tracking Report) that I issued in
accordance with procedures and as a normal course of business.  (In essence
an ATR is a problem report used to raise an issue so it can be
investigated.)  The "Description" of the problem stated, 'In past years,
beginning in the early 1980's, there have been reports of a "blue glow" that
looked like "blue fire" above the ground over the southeast corner of the
C-746-F burial yard.  Each time the phenomena has been observed it was just
after a heavy rain with a mist or high moisture condition just above the
ground.  During the first reported sighting it is my understanding that
personnel involved were told to stay out of the area and stay upwind.  The
"blue glow" was reportedly been seen a number of times after that (after a
heavy rain) until an additional layer of dirt (5-9 feet) was placed over the
previous elevation.  There was even one report that the "blue glow" was seen
as recent as 1996 and well after the extra fill dirt was in place."'

The recommended corrective action started out as, "On the chance that the
'blue glow' could be Cerenkov  ...  the following actions should be taken to
protect personnel."  The recommended actions were intended to be
conservative until it could be established that no high radiation levels
were present at any time.  One would think that a simple core drill with
subsequent analysis would have been relatively easy to do.  Turns out that
nothing is simple when you are dealing with a DOE classified burial site,
where a lot of here-to-fore undisclosed materials were buried.  The
individuals raising the concerns had raised them at the time of the initial
sitings but didn't feel they had been given adequate answers.

The ATR was generated, as an in-house process, to identify concerns so the
facts can be established and relayed to the appropriate personnel and in
this case to convey the information to the DOE.  The official ATR that is
placed in the site ATR computer system, so all can read them, only contains
the individuals badge number as identification.  It does not include the
name of the individual but that is easy to cross check.  The initiator did
not contact or send the information to the press.  Obviously someone else
did.  As with many day-to-day communications we sometimes think we know who
our audience is. This just proves that when communicating we need to realize
that people outside of your intended audience may end up with the material.
As the initiator of the ATR I guess that shows we all need to refresh
ourselves occasionally in our communication skills.  For the record, I don't
believe that the "blue glow", which it turns out many more individuals have
seen over the years, was the result of a criticality or high radiation dose
rates.  However, considering the potential consequences, I wouldn't want to
just "assume" that up front without first having it verified (especially
when the verification process should have been easy.)  We must sometimes
remind ourselves that our first priority as safety professionals is to
protect the workers and the public and not to immediately try to dismiss

As more information comes out regarding the history of this site, it is more
important that we don't write off reports or potential problems just because
they don't immediately fall within our individual experiences.  Many of the
more serious accidents (nuclear and non-nuclear) resulted from improbable

P.S.  For the record, I was more concerned about reports that workers had,
in the past, crawled through highly contaminated areas without contamination
controls in place.  Those were two other ATRs filed at the same time but not
as dramatic from a "press" point of view.

Ray Carroll, CHP
The RADSAFE Frequently Asked Questions list, archives and subscription
information can be accessed at http://www.ehs.uiuc.edu/~rad/radsafe.html