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A-Plant Search Fails to Locate 10 Radioactive Reactor Probes

November 01, 1986|Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Workers on Friday searched the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant for 10 radioactive reactor probes that were discovered missing in a recent inventory, a spokeswoman said.

The instruments, called incore detectors, are believed to be in a room at the plant where high-level radiation waste is kept and do not pose a threat to public health or the environment, Sequoyah spokeswoman Janice Blankenship said.

A check of storage drums and bags is continuing, but is expected to be drawn out because workers can spend only a short period of time in the area, Blankenship said.

Sifting Through Waste

"We are very confident they're in a lead drum in the . . . waste area," she said. "We're looking at records and searching through the radioactive waste.

"There's no indication they were shipped off-site. It's just a matter of locating them, and it's going to take some time."

Each device, which measures neutron activity in nuclear reactor cores in operation, contains about 4 milligrams of enriched uranium.

Blankenship said radiation monitors at the plant exits would have prevented anyone from walking away with the probes, which are about 2 1/2 inches long and three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter.

The inventory that turned up the discrepancy was done after a similar incident at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Browns Ferry Plant in northern Alabama, Sequoyah site Director Herb Abercrombie said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been notified of the search, Abercrombie said.

'Difficult to Locate'

"The detectors are quite small and can be difficult to locate," he said. "Because of the radioactive environment, we may bring in specialized robots that we can remotely operate to examine these containers."

Plant officials have located the 52 other probes used at the twin-reactor plant near Chattanooga since it began generating power in 1981, Blankenship said. Sequoyah was shut down in August, 1985, because of safety questions.

Earlier this month, officials at Browns Ferry announced that a plant audit showed five instruments with about two grams each of uranium were missing.

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