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Company may be fined for lost radioactive device

| Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, 8:41 p.m.

CHAMBERSBURG — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is proposing a $3,500 civil penalty for a Chambersburg company that temporarily lost a portable nuclear gauge in May.

The gauge, owned by Valley Quarries Inc., apparently fell out of a pickup on Interstate 81 in West Virginia. Small amounts of radioactive material are housed in the gauge, which is used to measure the density of soil at construction sites.

“While this gauge was fortunately recovered through the assistance of a citizen, the potential existed for a significant exposure to radioactivity had its container been breached,” NRC Region I Administrator Bill Dean said. “We continue to emphasize to the companies that use nuclear gauges that the utmost care must be taken to ensure they are properly secured and protected.”

The company has 30 days to respond to NRC about the agency's proposed civil penalty. The NRC announced the action on Thursday.

It would be the second time in less than a decade that Valley Quarries has been fined for inadequate security of a nuclear gauge.

According to the NRC, Valley Quarries reported on May 3 that one of its nuclear gauges was missing. One of the company's employees had been using the device that day to take a compaction reading at a road construction site near Martinsburg, W.Va.

After completing the reading, the employee placed the gauge in the back of a pickup and left for another work site. Arriving at the second site, the employee realized the truck's gate had opened and the gauge was missing.

A person found the device on the roadside, according to the NRC. After seeing public notices that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the NRC were seeking the gauge, the person turned it over to DEP on May 15. DEP later returned the gauge to Valley Quarries.

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