A Maryland-based manufacturing firm that was twice caught throwing out low-yield radioactive pellets with its regular trash at a plant in Northwest Washington has been fined $6,000 by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
RAD-IRID Inc., a radioactive medical products manufacturer, was cited for 14 alleged violations of NRC regulations, including failing to make sure radioactive material was properly disposed of and controlled at its 600 U St. NW laboratory-plant, an NRC spokesman said yesterday.
RAD-IRID manufactures nylon strips that contain tiny radioactive iridium-192 "seeds" or pellets. The strips are implanted in patients to treat various forms of cancer.
NRC inspectors first discovered during an unannounced visit last August that the firm was throwing out some of the radioactive strips with its regular trash, behind the U Street plant near Howard University.
Although company executives promised to correct the problem, inspectors found more of the strips in the trash during a follow-up visit in September, according to the NRC spokesman. Some of the strips were lying on the ground next to the trash bin.
Firms like RAD-IRID are required by federal regulation to package their waste and send it to special low-level radiation disposal sites, such as the one operated near Barnwell, S.C.
Richard C. DeYoung, director of the NRC's Office of Inspection and Enforcement, said RAD-IRID's numerous violations of NRC regulations "cause serious concern" about the firm's ability and desire to manage effectively its licensed operations.
"We believe this breakdown to be at least in part due to an apparent lack of concern by management," DeYoung said in a recent letter to the firm. "The location of your facility in a residential area increases the importance of ensuring that radioactive material is adequately controlled."
However, NRC and RAD-IRID officials emphasized yesterday that the actual hazard to the public is believed to have been minimal.
"There were a very minimal number of strips involved--nothing harmful," said Linda Rascoe, administrative assistant to the company, which has its main office in Forestville, Md.
"It the violation happened back in September," she added. "It's been corrected. They the NRC had another inspection in October and didn't find anything. We're complying with NRC's rules and regulations."
The $6,000 in fines, which were received by the NRC yesterday, resulted from only two of the 14 alleged violations. The NRC did not seek fines for the other 12 violations, which the agency said included failure to conduct required radiation surveys, failure to properly post radiation areas and failure to properly label containers of radioactive material.