By Annette Cary
The Department of Energy’s Office of Enforcement plans to investigate an accident that injured a Hanford worker in November, according to information made public Wednesday.
Preparations were being made Nov. 4 for pressure testing of a piping system for cooling water at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s vitrification plant.
A segment of 12-inch diameter pipe had been partially installed underground. It slipped from a connection with another segment of piping and unexpectedly sprayed a large volume of water, said Staci West, spokeswoman for DOE contractor Bechtel National.
The water hit a vit plant worker, knocking him to the ground and injuring him. The extent of his injuries was not made public because of medical privacy laws.
The man has returned to work, West said.
“After the injury occurred, we immediately paused similar pipe pressure testing activities and identified corrective actions to prevent reoccurrence,” West said.
Bechtel has declined to release more information about the cause of the accident or what it has done to prevent a similar event.
The contractor reported the incident to DOE and is fully cooperating with the DOE Office of Enforcement, West said.
The Office of Enforcement notified Bechtel on April 13 that it planned an investigation into the facts and circumstances associated with the worker injury.
Documents will be requested and an on site visit and interviews with employees will be scheduled, it said.
Construction of the plant began in 2002. It could begin treating low level radioactive waste as soon as 2022 and is required to be fully operating to treat high level radioactive waste in 2036.
It is planned to turn up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste left from weapons plutonium production into a stable glass form for disposal.
“We take worker safety seriously,” West said. “The safety of our workforce, the public and environment is a core value.”
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