12 Radioactive Spills in 20 Years, Rockwell Says

Minor releases of radioactive material have occurred accidentally 12 times during the last 20 years at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Chatsworth, according to a report Rockwell International submitted Monday to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Rockwell filed the report in response to an order from NRC Administrative Law Judge Peter Bloch, who is to rule on Rockwell's request to renew the nuclear materials license for its "hot lab."

Among the most recent events was an October, 1986, fire that occurred while a nuclear fuel rod was being sawed apart. Rockwell said a small amount of radioactivity was released into high efficiency air filters. Also mentioned was the April, 1986, loss of a small amount of Strontium-90, which Rockwell said was "probably disposed as radioactive waste" inadvertently during cleanup.

Bloch said Rockwell's performance is less important because the firm has scaled back its license request. Rockwell had sought a 10-year renewal in hopes of attracting new Department of Energy contracts to declad nuclear fuel, which involves removing radioactive materials from fuel rods. But the firm now wants only a one-year renewal.

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