Morning Briefing - May 16, 2019
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May 16, 2019

International Isotopes Files Insurance Claim After Contamination Incident at University

By ExchangeMonitor

International Isotopes on Wednesday confirmed its role in an accident two weeks ago that contaminated more than a dozen people with cesium-137 during the Department of Energy-funded removal of a blood-irradiation machine from a research facility at the University of Washington.

“On May 3, 2019, our radiological services team was involved in a contamination event at an off-site location in the state of Washington,” the Idaho Falls, Idaho, nuclear medicine provider stated in a 10-Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “We are currently supporting clean-up operations at that location and are in discussions with regulatory agencies regarding any possible violations that may have occurred.”

International Isotopes said it reported the incident to its insurance provider, which the company believes will cover costs related to the matter.

“At this time, the total cost of recovery is unknown, and it is not known whether we will be cited by the regulator for any violations related to this event,” according to the 10-Q. The Washington state Department of Health regulates radiation sources in that state.

International Isotopes’ radiological services division recovers radiation sources for government programs, including the Cesium Irradiator Replacement Project funded by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The agency’s Office of Radiological Security manages the program, which provides grant funding to replace blood sterilization machines that use potentially dangerous cesium-137 with machines that use comparatively harmless X-rays.

Hospitals commonly irradiate blood needed for transfusions to sterilize it. Bad actors could use cesium in a radioactive dispersal device, which is sometimes called a dirty bomb.

While removing a cesium irradiator manufactured by J. L. Shepherd and Associates from a research building near the Harborview Medical Center on May 3, workers broke open the machine’s cesium capsule. Contamination from the powdery white cesium-137 subsequently spread through all seven floors of the research facility.

The university has not reoccupied the seven-story building yet, a spokesperson said Wednesday.

Covering its five business segments, International Isotopes on Wednesday reported just over $2.5 million in revenue for its latest quarter. That compared to $2.8 million in the same period of 2018. Income dropped on a year-over-year basis from a $34,404 net gain to a $51,958 net loss, the 10-Q says.