United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 83-16: Contamination of the Auburn Steel Company Property with Cobalt-60

                                                            SINNS No. 6835 
                                                            IN 83-16 

                                UNITED STATES
                       NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION 
                    OFFICE OF INSPECTION AND ENFORCEMENT 
                          WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555  

                               March 30, 1983

Information Notice No. 83-16:   CONTAMINATION OF THE AUBURN STEEL COMPANY
                                   PROPERTY WITH COBALT-60 

Addressees: 

All material licensees. 

Purpose: 

A recent event at a licensed facility which manufacturers steel rods for 
reinforcement makes it necessary to stress the importance of control of 
licensed material as a means of protecting the health and safety of the 
general public. It is expected that recipients will review this information 
notice for applicability to their facilities. 

Description of Circumstances: 

The Auburn Steel Company, Auburn, New York, manufactures steel rods for 
concrete reinforcement. These rods are made by melting a "charge" composed, 
primarily of scrap steel and then ladling the melted steel into a casting 
machine for continuous casting of the rods. 

On February 21, 1983, a level gauge responded abnormally after a charge was 
ladled into the casting machine. The shield on the gauge was then closed 
but, the radiation monitor continued to respond abnormally. Subsequent 
measurements with a Geiger counter indicated radiation emanating from some 
recently cast rods and from a batch of molten steel. The Auburn Steel 
Company informed the New York Department of Health about the incident. 
Independent measurements taken by New York State Health Inspectors at the 
site showed that the steel contained approximately 4.2 x 105 picocuries per 
gram of Cobalt-60 (Co-60) distributed over more than 100 tons of steel. It 
is estimated that the contamination resulted from the addition of 25 curies 
or more of Co-60 to the scrap steel. Additional measurements taken at the 
facility showed the following levels of contamination: 700 picocuries ger 
gram of Co-60 in a dust sample from the ventilation system, 2900 picocuries 
per gram of Co-60 in a dust sample from inside the plant, and 540 picocuries
per gram of Co-60 in a composite sample of wipes near the outlet vent of the
ventilation system located on the plant roof. The origin of the Co-60 is not
known; however, we assume the source was introduced into the scrap steel 
outside the Auburn facility. The company has had to shut down production 
pending decontamination efforts at the facility. The cost of decontaminating
the plant is estimated at 1.2 million dollars. 
.

                                                           IN 83-16 
                                                           March 30, 1983 
                                                           Page 2 of 2 

Discussion:  

It appears that this incident may have resulted from a lack of control of 
licensed material. Such material must alway be under the control of the 
licensee and secured against unauthorized removal to assure that the health 
and safety of the public is protected. Therefore, we suggest that you review
those provisions of the regulations and your license that deal with control 
of licensed materials and reporting lost or stolen material. If you are 
licensed to possess a Co-60 source we suggest you conduct an inventory of 
your sources, being careful to review all receipt and transfer records to 
confirm receipt or disposition. In the event any source is not accounted 
for, you should report that fact immediately to the NRC pursuant to 10 CFR 
20.402. 

No written response to this notice is required. If you need additional 
information, contact the appropriate NRC Regional Office. 


                              James M. Taylor, Director 
                              Division of Quality Assurance, Safeguards, 
                                and Inspection Programs 
                              Office of Inspection and Enforcement 

Technical Contact:  C. Yaczko 
                    301-492-8463  

Attachment: 
List of Recently Issued Information Notices 

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, November 12, 2013