Report on NIST Nuclear Incident in Maryland Expected Next Week – NBC4 Washington
Federal nuclear officials said they expect a report in the coming days on what went wrong in a small nuclear reactor in Maryland in February.
The February 3 incident at the research nuclear facility on the campus of the National Institutes for Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg caused a brief horror in the community.
An inside fuel assembly overheated and the reactor shut down automatically, but also forced the evacuation of at least 10 workers from the facility. They had to be decontaminated and sent home.
The release of radioactive material was three times higher than originally assumed, but was still well below the unsafe levels and posed no threat to the community. The sensors on the fence line around the facility, which regularly check for emissions, have, according to the Federal government never determined unsafe values.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects to release its first report on what went wrong next week.
Nuclear safety advocates say the federal government did a good job keeping the public informed and are excited to see how it happened.
“There are a number of barriers, and these barriers are designed to keep the bad things inside and protect the good people,” said nuclear researcher David Lochbaum. “These barriers didn’t work as they should here and we need to find out what didn’t work so they can be more reliable in the future.”
The NIST reactor will remain offline indefinitely as this agency awaits the results of the investigation.
NIST uses the small research nuclear reactor for studies.