Fatality at EnergySolutions facility in Erwin

A worker suffered fatal injuries Tuesday morning when he fell about 25 feet at an EnergySolutions waste-treatment facility in Erwin, Tenn., and the accident is under investigation, a company spokesman said.

Mark Walker, an EnergySolutions spokesman, said the employee fell  into a “transfer vault,” where radioactive resins from commercial nuclear power plants are unloaded before they’re transferred to another area of the plant to be treated, compacted and packaged for disposal.

Walker said the cause of the fall is under investigation. He declined to release the employee’s name or age. After the fall, emergency procedures were taken to “expedite medical care,” he said. The worker was transported to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries.

Asked if the victim was decontaminated before he was transported to the hospital and if other workers who responded at the scene were checked for radioactivity, Walker said, “Standard protocol requires radiation protection personnel be involved in the entire emergency process. Radioactive contamination levels were determined to be minimal and have been fully contained.”

Energy Solutions notified Tennessee OSHA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and will “update both agencies as information is made available,” he said.

Kelly Brockman, a spokeswoman for TDEC, said EnergySolutions is licensed under TDEC’s Division of Radiological Health.

“They informed us of the fall today. We are hopefully going out tomorrow or Thursday to get more details,” Brockman said. She said TDEC has been in contact with TOSHA, which also plans to visit the site.

“EnergySolutions expresses its deepest sympathy and regret to family members and loved ones of our employee,” Walker said in a statement.

The Utah-based EnergySolutions bought the Erwin treatment facility from Studvik earlier this year, Walker said.

The plant uses a “steam reforming tehcnology” known as THOR to process the radioactive resins. Erwin Resin Solutions LLC is a subsidiary of EnergySolutions, Inc.

Operations were shut down at the Erwin facililty, and the investigation is under way.

Walker said the company’s other facilities, including the Bear Creek facility in Oak Ridge, are continuing to operate.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.