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Workers Treated for Radiation Exposure

June 12, 1988

MARION, Ohio (AP) _ The homes of 25 workers who may have been exposed to radioactivity during an accident at a steel plant have been checked and found free of contamination, officials said Saturday.

Twelve workers were decontaminated Friday after molten steel spilled from a large ladle at the Marion Steel Co. plant and damaged two gauges containing radioactive cesium-137, officials said.

Plant personnel identified 28 employees, including the 12, who could have been exposed to the material, said Sonya Elam, spokeswoman for the Ohio Disaster Services Agency.

Teams from disaster services, the Ohio Department of Health, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Energy, have checked 25 individuals and their homes and found no contamination, Ms. Elam said. Three workers had not yet been contacted Saturday, Ms. Elam said.

The building in which the accident occurred has been closed while a consulting company cleans up the site under the supervision of Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff members, she said.

NRC spokesman Jan Strasma said the workers were trying to cut away molten steel after it had cooled when they came in contact with the cesium-137.

The contamination was limited to the heavy clothing the workers were wearing except for one worker who received minor skin contamination.

″Apparently it (the contamination) got through or around the (heavy, insulated) glove he was wearing. He took a shower and that took care of that,″ Strasma said.

″We would characterize this as a relatively minor contamination. None of the people involved are in any danger from it,″ he said.

Cesium-137 is a radioactive, granular or powdered substance that could be harmful as a result of prolonged exposure, Strasma said.

The radioactive material was contained in a capsule about an inch long in four gauges positioned atop a casting mold, Strasma said. The gauges regulated the amount of molten steel poured into the mold from the automated ladle. The contamination took place, Strasma said, as workers tried to clean up the spilled steel.

The NRC, which is in charge of investigating radioactive spills, has not begun an investigation into the circumstances of the accident, Strasma said.

Marion Steel will hire a consultant to assist in cleaning up the radioactive material, which will be taken to a nuclear waste disposal site in either South Carolina, Nevada or Washington state, Strasma said.

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