BY KEN LITTLE
A supervisor at the Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) facility in Erwin tested positive for alcohol on the morning of Sept. 20 after a for-cause fitness-for-duty test.
"The supervisor's access to the facility has been restricted," the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said last week in an event report.
NFS officials notified an on-site NRC resident inspector after the incident.
NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said in email answers to questions from The Greeneville Sun that a "for-cause" fitness-for-duty (FFD) test is one "in which an individual is identified to be exhibiting the signs of consuming alcohol or using banned substances."
"In such a case, the co-worker or supervisor who observes the individual -- through behavior, odor of alcohol, et cetera -- contacts security, and that individual is then tested 'for cause' as opposed to the random testing required of all employees that fall under the NRC regulations for fitness-for-duty testing." Hannah said "personnel-related" specifics about the individual involved can't be divulged.
NRC WILL FOLLOW UP
The NRC will "follow up" on the incident during a fall inspection, Hannah said.
"The NRC takes all fitness-for-duty issues seriously. When an FFD incident is identified, the NRC reviews the impact the event had or could have had on public health and safety," he continued.
"Based on the information we have received, we do not believe that the safe operation of the facility was jeopardized."
Hannah said the issue was identified by NFS employees.
"Based on our information, the individual was removed from work before performing any activities involving licensed material," Hannah said.
An NFS spokeswoman said Friday in an email response to questions that available information about the incident is contained in the NRC report.
"Due to this being an open investigation into a personnel issue, and in compliance with established privacy laws, we cannot comment further," Kara Keys said.
Hannah said the NRC "is unaware of the individual's status."
PROTOCOL APPARENTLY FOLLOWED
NFS apparently followed company protocol after the issue was identified.
"Based on the initial information, it appears that NFS appropriately followed their internal fitness-for-duty procedures.
"The company identified the individual, removed the individual from work and tested the individual," Hannah said.
"We plan to perform a follow-up inspection of this issue in several weeks to confirm NFS actions and determine if there are any additional issues, but it appears the process worked."
NFS is located near the Nolichucky River, 28 miles upstream from Greeneville. It manufactures uranium fuel for U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered submarines and surface ships, and also converts government stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium into nuclear reactor fuel for commercial clients.