Acuren building safe, landlord says

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Wednesday, May 7, 2014 11:42pm
  • News

News that one of his tenants had suspended operations, after a surprise inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, came as a shock to Rick Roeske, executive director of the organization that owns the building where the Kenai branch of Acuren USA has been housed for more than five years.

Staff at the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District has since met with inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, and been assured that other tenants in the building had not been over-exposed to radiation and were safe, Roeske said.

“We didn’t get a notification from Acuren, we got notification from the media and that’s the first we heard of it,” Roeske said. “We were as surprised as everyone else.”

Technically the company was not required to report its encounter with the NRC as it was not spelled out in the terms of its lease with the economic development district, he said.

The company is licensed to use radioactive materials when inspecting pipe welds and on April 10 NRC inspectors on a surprise inspection of the facility, 14896 Kenai Spur Highway, had meter readings that went “off-scale” close to the building, according to a confirmatory action letter issued to the company.

An initial dose estimate suggested that a member of the public standing near the building during testing could have gotten a dose of radiation in excess of mandated annual limits, according to the letter.

Inspectors moved about 40 feet away from the building and their survey meter read about 200 mR/hour during the two minutes that Acuren was conducting testing. 200 mr/hour, or millirems per hour, exceeds the federally mandated guidelines for an annual limit to radiation exposure which is 100 millirems, though, inspector Lara Uselding, public affairs officer for the NRC, told KBBI, the Homer-based public radio station, that annual limit is “very low” and would be lower than what the average person would receive from background sources of radiation.

Inspectors determined that Acuren employees had conducted at least six two-minute exposures that day over the course of about one hour, according to the action letter. The company told the NRC that it had suspended radiographic operations on April 14, according to the letter. However, reports of that suspension were not widespread until the NRC released its notice of confirmatory action letter 11 days later on April 25.

Acuren USA has 80 locations in North America, including offices in Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, Anchorage and Kenai. It employs more than 3,500 people according to its website.

The company has a history of violations according to NRC 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. One of those violations may have resulted in a radiography device and radioactive material in a pickup truck being stolen near Austin, Texas, according to NRC records.

All calls to Acuren regarding the incident were directed to Rockwood Service Corporation, parent company for Acuren. Calls for comment made in April were not returned, however an attorney with the corporation did leave a message at the Clarion Wednesday indicating that he was available for comment. He did not answer a return call by press time.

Roeske said a team from NRC had been out to the building and had done some testing with Acuren in its facility. The team also met with the other tenants in the building.

The economic development district building houses at least seven business, each with tenants and staff. Roeske estimated that between 15-25 people were in the building at any given time.

“(The NRC) held tenant interviews with everyone in the building and they did go through and do checks. They were very thorough,” he said. “They went through the building, checked everything, talked to all of the tenants, reassured all of the people in the building.”

The NRC will issue a final report on the situation, Roeske said.

“They did find some administrative lapses with Acuren, but they will be dealt with between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission an Acuren and then (NRC) will shoot me a link to their report,” he said.

Roeske said he heard rumors that there was excessive radiation in the building, but was told that those rumors were untrue.

While the NRC was running its follow-up testing with Acuren, measurements remained low, he said.

“(NRC) have what they call a threshold level and (the measurements) didn’t meet that threshold level,” he said.

Once the report is issued, Roeske said economic development district staff would be reviewing its lease with Acuren to add language saying the company needed to communicate with staff if there were issues with its operations.

“We have tenants and we’re a business incubation center and we try to share services and provide services but one of those services (in return) is to not scare other tenants,” he said, with a laugh.

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read