Federal agency cites Kenai company for radiation exposure violations

The Kenai branch of Acuren USA has suspended operations after the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission found high radiation readings during a surprise inspection in early April.

The company is licensed to use radioactive materials when inspecting pipe welds. According to a confirmatory action letter issued by the regulatory commission to the company, inspectors walking around Acuren’s facility at 14896 Kenai Spur Highway found high readings in areas where the public could be exposed to high radiation levels.

According to a media release issued by the regulatory commission, there were no boundaries or controls in place to keep people out of the area during radiography operations and initial dose estimates suggested that anyone standing near the building could have been exposed to radiation in excess of the regulatory commission’s annual limit.

The company, which specializes in inspections and materials and reliability engineering, is located in Kenai’s Economic Development District, or EDD building, where several other companies also operate.

Inspectors also were concerned that anyone who worked in the nearby offices could have been exposed to excessive radiation according to the regulatory commission letter.

The company agreed to suspend its radiography operations at the Kenai facility until the regulatory commission approves it for further use, to develop a series of planned actions to keep the public from being exposed to excessively high doses of radiation and provide the regulatory commission with information to determine if the public was exposed to the radiation during its past activities.

According to Acuren’s website, it has 80 locations in North America and employs more than 3,500 people.

The building was largely empty Tuesday afternoon, though at least one man was inside. A sign on the door listed several emergency contacts and radiation safety emergency contacts.

No one at the facility was willing to comment and calls to the company’s Anchorage office were forwarded to a national communications person who did not return calls for comment as of press time Tuesday.

Acuren has a history of violations according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission documentation, including a 2007 citation for failing to inspect a Virginia facility for “compliance with dose limits to individual members of the public” and 2010 inspections in Michigan, Wyoming and Texas which found apparent violations of security requirements which may have culminated in a radiography device and radioactive material in a pickup truck being stolen near Austin, Texas.

Acuren has four offices in Alaska including locations in Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay and Anchorage.

The regulatory commission will conduct a follow-up inspection, according to a media release.

Rashah McChesney is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.