Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that one of its nuclear inspectors had been exposed to radiation during a 4 October inspection of the Belgoprocess nuclear waste facility in Dessel, Belgium.
The inspector, along with an inspector from EURATOM and a Belgoprocess employee, apparently received a dose of radiation after a vial or flask of plutonium accidentally fell on the floor, according to releases from the company and the Belgian Federal Nuclear Control Agency (AFCN). Plutonium is dangerous if ingested, but the amount received by the inspectors was less than the legal limit, the AFCN says. No radiation has been released beyond the site.
The accident is the second at a European nuclear site in less than a month. In late September, an explosion rocked a French low-level waste facility, though no radiation was released.
IAEA inspectors are well known for their visits to more out-of-the-way facilities, such as Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz. But the agency also conducts regular inspections of civilian facilities throughout the world. As I learned a few years back, they are highly trained, rigorous book-keepers who work to ensure that operators everywhere keep careful track of their nuclear inventory.
Belgoprocess was founded in 1984 and handles all levels of nuclear waste from across the country. Its services include storage, decontamination, and waste processing.