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NRC Bans Testing Officer for Misconduct

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended a veteran radiographer for a Texas testing company from work on any NRC facilities in the wake of misconduct on a job at a facility in Wyoming.

James Chaisson has been banned “from engaging in NRC-licensed activities for 18 months for safety and security violations involving radioactive materials,” the agency announced Sept. 11.

 Texas Gamma Ray provides onsite nondestructive testing services.

 Photos: Texas Gamma Ray

Texas Gamma Ray provides onsite nondestructive testing services. Chaisson was a Radiation Safety Officer at TGR.

Chaisson, who has 27 years of experience, was formerly employed as an area supervisor and lead radiographer for Texas Gamma Ray LLC (TGR), a large nondestructive testing company headquartered in Pasadena, TX.

TGR has declined to comment on the case. Chaisson could not be reached for comment.

Device Improperly Stored

The NRC determined that Chaisson engaged in deliberate misconduct while performing licensed activities on a job in Rock Springs, WY.

Chaisson “deliberately failed to comply with” NRC regulations by periodically storing a device containing radioactive materials at an unauthorized location over several months, “even though he knew the facility did not meet NRC security requirements,” agency documents say.

The device is used to photograph pipe welds. The misconduct occurred from December 2009 to April 2010, the NRC said.

Radiation Safety

In his position at TGR, Chaisson was responsible for temporary job sites in Wyoming. Eight of his 27 years of experience were as a Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) for TGR, responsible for the safe use of radiation and radioactive materials as well as regulatory compliance.

The NRC said Chaisson was fully knowledgeable of the requirements for storing radiographic exposure devices and had previously met the security requirements for storing the devices inside his company truck at his former residence.

TGR’s NRC license authorized the company to possess and use byproduct material for industrial radiographic operations only at temporary job sites. (The license was terminated at the licensee’s request on July 25, 2011, according to NRC.)

From June 4, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010, the NRC conducted a safety and security inspection of the use of byproduct material for industrial radiographic operations. That inspection then initiated two investigations, to determine whether Chaisson:

• Deliberately stored radiographic exposure devices at a location he knew was not authorized by TGR’s radioactive material license; and

• Deliberately failed to implement NRC security requirements for the use, storage, and protection of licensed material for radiographic operations.

Enforcement Efforts

In a letter dated Feb. 23, 2012, the NRC informed Chaisson that it was considering escalated enforcement action for apparent violation of NRC’s deliberate misconduct rule (10 CFR 30.10).

 The misconduct involved inappropriate storage of a device used to photograph pipe welds.
The misconduct involved inappropriate storage of a device used to photograph pipe welds. The device contains radioactive material.

The agency also offered Chaisson the opportunity to request a predecisional enforcement conference (PEC) or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). After indicating that he was not interested in pursuing either option, Chaisson stated that he would submit a written response to the NRC’s letter.

According to NRC documents, NRC’s Office of Investigations conducted several interviews with Chaisson, during which they concluded that his statements “lacked credibility.”

First, he claimed that the corporate RSO had given him permission to store the device at the alternate location. Then, upon learning that the corporate RSO had been out of the country and unreachable, he said that the operations manager had given him permission.

Chaisson also asserted that he was not responsible for meeting security requirements at the leased facility--a claim that multiple TGR officials have disputed.

3-Year Ban Proposed

In an order dated May 15, 2012, Roy P. Zimmerman, director of the NRC’s Office of Enforcement, stated: “I lack the requisite reasonable assurance that licensed activities can be conducted in compliance with the Commission’s requirements and that health and safety of the public with be protected if Mr. Chaisson were permitted at this time to be involved with NRC-licensed activities.

“Therefore, the public health and safety and interest require that Mr. Chaisson be prohibited from any involvement in NRC-licensed activities for a period of three years from the effective date of this Order…”

Originally, a May 15 order prohibited Chaisson from working in NRC jurisdiction for three years, followed by a year where he would be required to notify the NRC of his involvement in licensed activities.

On July 26, however, an ADR session was conducted, resulting in a Confirmatory Order that imposed the 18-month ban on NRC activities, followed by work restrictions for four years. Chaisson must also complete 80 hours of specialized training.

The NRC’s letter to Chaisson will be made available to the public through the agency’s reading room on its web site, www.nrc.gov.

   

Tagged categories: Pipelines; Regulations; Site/field testing

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