OT Workers Exposed to Plutonium at US Lab

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Friday March 17 10:50 PM ET

Workers Exposed to Plutonium at U.S. Lab

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eight workers at the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory were exposed to a dangerous plutonium isotope Thursday but no plutonium was released into the environment, the department said Friday.

Four of the employees began receiving medical treatment after tests showed possible exposure to plutonium-238 at potentially dangerous levels. Tests on the others indicated no need for treatment, the laboratory in New Mexico said.

``No plutonium was released to the environment as a result of the incident,'' it said. Officials were developing a plan for reentering the contaminated rooms where the workers were exposed to the isotope, the statement added.

Plutonium-238, which is used to build tiny heaters for military and civilian applications, is different from the isotope used to build nuclear weapons, plutonium-239.

No details on the cause of the accident were immediately available. An independent investigation will be carried out, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said in a statement.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 17, 2000

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