Feds Shut Down Kenai Facility After Radiation Found

Acuren Did Not Follow Safety Rules, Says Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Aaron Selbig

     A testing and inspection company with facilities in Kenai is in trouble with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A surprise inspection of Acuren’s facility earlier this month revealed high levels of radiation outside the building. 

     Acuren is an international company that specializes in industrial testing and inspections. The company has offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Anchorage and Kenai. Its Kenai facility is located in the Economic Development District building on the Kenai Spur Highway. That’s where inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission showed up April 10th for an unannounced inspection.

     Lara Uselding, public affairs officer for the NRC’s Region 4 office in Arlington, Texas, says the inspectors found a high level of radiation coming from the outside of the building.

     "The inspectors learned that these (radiographers) had just performed six two-minute images resulting in this high survey meter reading," said Uselding.

     The workers for Acuren were using a radiography machine, which contains iridium, to inspect welds on a section of pipe. Uselding says the company is licensed with the government to use the machine but it did not have the proper safety controls in place at the EDD building, including warning signs, physical barriers and an extra worker to control the testing area.

     Uselding says the levels of radiation found outside the EDD building April 10th are not enough to be a biological hazard to anyone working in or near the building. There was no evacuation ordered and no official warning has been given to employees working in the building. 

     "The concern is that, had someone ... been standing near that building, it's possible they could have received NRC's annual limit ... in just a few minutes," she said.

     That limit is an annual limit of 100 millirem, which Uselding describes as very low – lower than an average person would receive from background sources of radiation like medical procedures. 

     Acuren has agreed to stop its radiography operations at the facility until the NRC approves a plan of action to install the proper safety procedures. Uselding says the NRC plans to conduct a follow-up inspection of Acuren’s Kenai facility in the coming days. She says the company has had two recent incidents like this, one in Texas and another in Ohio.

     Attempts to reach Acuren officials for comment were directed to an attorney for Rockwood Service Corporation, Acuren’s parent company. Those calls were not returned in time for this story.