Idaho National Laboratory Workers File Suit Against INL Contractor Over Radiation Accident 

click to enlarge Boise Weekly introduced readers to to Ralph Stanton in April 2014. - JAMES LLOYD
  • James Lloyd
  • Boise Weekly introduced readers to to Ralph Stanton in April 2014.
A little more than a year ago, Boise Weekly readers met Ralph Stanton, a former Idaho National Laboratory employee, who, along with 15 other workers, was exposed to an uncontrolled release of plutonium in November 2011. Stanton insists the exposure could have been prevented, but safety protocols were not being met by one of Idaho National Laboratory's contractors, Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC.

Stanton told a harrowing story of contamination that spread through his body and into his home, effecting his wife and teenage daughter as well. He urged his supervisors to take responsibility for the accident but with little success. Stanton was eventually fired for sleeping on the job—a claim he adamantly and bitterly disputes.

Now, Stanton has filed a new lawsuit relating to the 2011 incident. The lawsuit was filed against Battelle Energy Alliance on May 14 through the Idaho District Court in Pocatello.

According to the Spokesman-Review, the complaint claims Battelle created an unsafe work environment and then retaliated against Stanton and his colleague, Brian Simmons—also exposed in the 2011 incident—when they raised health and safety concerns.

It claims Battelle broke federal law protecting whistleblowers who raise concerns about nuclear safety. Stanton wants compensation and to see Battelle remove negative performance reviews from his personnel file.

This suit is a followup to a whistleblower complaint Stanton and Simmons filed with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013. The Department of Labor never took action on the complaint, so now Stanton expects a jury to decide the fate of his case.

"I'm looking forward to a jury of my peers deciding my case," Stanton told Idaho Falls' Post Register. "It's been a long time coming, and I'm ready to get it on."

Ralph Stanton (center), with daughter Marissa (left) and wife Jodi (right), has spent the past three and a half years fighting the Idaho National Laboratory from his family's kitchen table. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Ralph Stanton (center), with daughter Marissa (left) and wife Jodi (right), has spent the past three and a half years fighting the Idaho National Laboratory from his family's kitchen table.

Stanton has brought forth numerous lawsuits before this to find compensation and closure for his family and to hold Battelle Energy Alliance accountable for mistakes he said they made. He and Simmons sued the U.S. government in September 2013 after filing a public records request to the U.S. Department of Energy earlier in the year, looking for documentation and a security video of the 2011 event. The feds told the men the video was private property of Battelle Energy Alliance, so Stanton and Simmons went to a federal judge to force the Department of Energy to turn over the video.

click to enlarge The INL facility where Ralph Stanton and 15 other workers were exposed to airborne plutonium in November 2011. - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • The INL facility where Ralph Stanton and 15 other workers were exposed to airborne plutonium in November 2011.
Jodi Stanton also filed a lawsuit against Battelle Energy Alliance that was dismissed earlier this year, which was similar to the one filed May 14 of this year. The case was dismissed by a judge for failure on the plaintiff's part (Jodi Stanton) to state a claim. 

Battelle Energy Alliance won't comment on any pending litigation but John Grossenbacher, Director of INL and President of Batelle Energy, has continuously denied Stanton's claims of retaliation and unsafe exposure to plutonium.

Grossenbacher wrote an op-ed for the Post Register and the Times-News in August 2013 after a  story about Stanton's plight hit the front page of Idaho Falls' local newspaper.

"We must ... address seriously inaccurate statements that call public safety into question and threaten to undermine this community's trust in BEA and how it operates INL," Grossenbacher wrote. "All employees involved in the November 2011 exposure were checked for external contamination before being cleared to go home. No affected employees left the site with detectable contamination on their skin or clothes."

Grossenbacher stated "no dose exceeded the safety threshold for radiation workers."

In November 2014, Grossenbacher announced he would leave his position at INL by September 2015. 

Stanton expects the trial for this new case will begin February 2016.
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