United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 94-81: Accuracy of Bioassay and Environmental Sampling Results

                                 UNITED STATES
                         NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
               OFFICE OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL SAFETY AND SAFEGUARDS
                            WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                               November 25, 1994


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 94-81:  ACCURACY OF BIOASSAY AND ENVIRONMENTAL
                               SAMPLING RESULTS

Addressees:

All U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensees.

Purpose:

NRC is issuing this information notice to alert addressees to a recent event
that has raised questions about the accuracy of results from a bioassay and
environmental sampling contractor.  It is expected that recipients will review
the information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as
appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  However, suggestions contained in
this information notice are not new NRC requirements; therefore, no specific
action or written response is required.

Description of Circumstances:

On November 8, 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a press
release stating that it was cooperating with other Federal authorities who
executed a search warrant for the records of a company that analyzed urine
samples for the bioassay program at Sandia National Laboratory.  The release
is provided in Attachment 1.  The company, Controls for Environmental
Pollution (CEP), is located in Santa Fe, NM.  Quality control testing has
raised questions about the reliability of CEP's reports.  DOE is also
reviewing whether other DOE facilities and employees may be affected.

Discussion:

NRC is concerned that Commission licensees may have used the services of CEP
and, based on the circumstances described above, may have reason to question
sample results used to determine the exposure of individuals to radioactive
materials, or to determine the release of radioactive materials to the
environment.  NRC does not have complete information on what services CEP has
performed for Commission licensees over the last few years.  Licensees may
wish to determine whether they have used CEP services within the last few
years and, if so, consider how the results were used and whether inaccurate
results would have any safety significance.  If inaccurate results could cause
significant safety concerns, licensees may wish to consider what actions would
be appropriate to confirm their sample results. 




9411170284.                                                      IN 94-81
                                                      November 25, 1994
                                                      Page 2 of 2


This information notice requires no specific action or written response.  If
you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact
the technical contact listed below or the appropriate regional office.

                                    /S/'D BY CJ PAPERIELLO


                                    Carl J. Paperiello, Director
                                    Division of Industrial and Medical
                                       Nuclear Safety
                                    Office of Nuclear Material Safety
                                       and Safeguards



Contact:  Scott W. Moore, NMSS
          (301) 415-7875


Attachments:
1.  DOE Press Release
2.  List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices
3.  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
.                                                            Attachment 1
                                                            IN 94-81
                                                            November 25, 1994
                                                            Page 1 of 2




NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:                             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Michael Gauldin, 202/586-4940                   November 8, 1994
Rick Oborn, 202/586-4940            
Rod Geer, 505/844-6601


                ACCURACY OF WORKER EXPOSURE REPORTS QUESTIONED

                 DOE OFFICIALS CONCERNED; ALL SITES ALERTED  

      The Department of Energy (DOE) is cooperating fully with
federal authorities who today executed a search warrant for the
records of a Santa Fe company that has analyzed employee
radiation test results for Sandia National Laboratory.

      The company, Controls for Environmental Pollution (CEP),
tested employee urine samples for Sandia National Laboratory
beginning in 1992 as part of the department's bioassay program.
This program is designed to measure the amount of radioactive
material taken internally by employees who work with unsealed
radioactive substances.

      The department is also investigating whether other DOE sites
and employees may be affected and reviewing its procedures for
handling bioassay samples. Additional information will be
released as it becomes available.

      Sandia officials stopped using CEP's services in April
because quality control testing had raised questions about the
reliability of CEP's reports. The department's Mound Plant in
Ohio used CEP's services for special projects last year, but
stopped sending samples to the company after questions arose
about the company's capabilities.

      "We take these allegations very seriously," said Secretary
of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary. "We are assessing the number of
employees and sites that may be involved, reviewing our
procedures for handling bioassay reports and establishing an 
accreditation system to ensure the reliability of bioassay
testing."

                                    (MORE)
.                                                            Attachment 1
                                                            IN 94-81
                                                            November 25, 1994
                                                            Page 2 of 2


      "We will keep employees informed as we determine the scope of the
problem and notify any employees who've been given
inaccurate information that affects their health. We are also going to
reconstruct dose levels where tests may be questionable."

      Urine tests are conducted at DOE sites where unsealed radioactive
materials are handled to verify that worker exposure is within safety limits. 


      CEP tested about 500 employee urine samples for Sandia from August 1992
to April 1994. All individuals involved will be offered new tests.  

      All DOE sites are being alerted and directed to report instances in
which CEP's service have been used so the number of workers potentially
affected can be determined and appropriate action taken.

      DOE's Office of Environment, Safety and Health is reviewing the
department's policies and standards for the collection and recording of
bioassay samples to identify weaknesses and make improvements.

      Guidance will be provided to DOE sites for action to be taken in the
future if similar suspect information is identified. The direction will
include procedures for determining whether retesting for affected individuals
is called for.

      The department has been developing an accreditation program for bioassay
laboratories to provide quality and performance standards for contractors that
conduct bioassay analysis for the department.

                                     -DOE-





 R-94-220
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, November 15, 2013