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Re: “Half-Life: How an Accident at the Idaho National Laboratory Changed a Family

Battelle Energy Alliance truly regrets that this employee and his family are feeling such distress. However, we reject the assertion that Idaho National Laboratory officials haven't taken responsibility for this incident and don't value employee well-being. The safety and health of employees and the community at large are extremely important to us and influence every action we take.

BEA officials were available to provide the reporter with enough information for a balanced and factual story, yet the published piece played upon sensationalism and fell short when it came to verifiable facts. Here are just a few examples.

The story failed to make it clear that very low levels of radioactive contamination and radiation doses can be measured with accuracy, and that experts generally understand the effects from specific doses. The doses of radiation that employees received were painstakingly measured and fell far below levels known to harm people's health. No employees went home with detectable contamination. Home samples analyzed by an independent laboratory found nothing above background levels known to exist in soils from fallout deposited during atmospheric nuclear weapons testing conducted by several nations mainly in the 1950s and 1960s.

The story also implies INL did nothing for the affected employees. For example, the piece said the lab’s Environment, Safety and Health Director Sharon Dossett "didn't reply" to Mr. Stanton's email about visiting local business owners about his claims of contamination. Yet the story failed to note that Ms. Dossett personally spoke with Mr. Stanton on the subject. In the months and years following the exposure, INL leaders repeatedly met with and offered assistance to all affected employees.

Additionally, the story got several facts wrong, including the description of the independent laboratory referenced above. The Department of Energy-owned and Battelle-operated Oak Ridge National Laboratory did not analyze the home survey results. Those analyses were performed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities, an independent consortium widely recognized as the nation's leading provider of independent verification surveys. Both happen to be located in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Other factual errors in the story are too numerous to list here, though we've shared them with the story's editor. The lack of effort to verify so many basic facts should give thoughtful readers pause when considering the believability of Boise Weekly's story.

Nicole Stricker, Idaho National Laboratory spokesperson

8 likes, 50 dislikes
Posted by nstricker on 04/30/2014 at 12:59 PM

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