Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Dying Ex-NRC Inspector Sues Nuclear Plant Where She Worked

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Dying Ex-NRC Inspector Sues Nuclear Plant Where She Worked

Article excerpt

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO _ Rung Tang always believed she was perfectly safe working as a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector inside the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

She thinks differently now. Tang is dying from a rare form of cancer at age 44. She is suing the plant's operators, contending she was exposed to leaking radiation.

If she wins, the nuclear power industry could be hit with a flood of similar litigation, some analysts believe.

"Certainly the industry is watching this very closely," said Cathy Roche, a spokeswoman for the trade group U.S. Council for Energy Awareness.

"In the past, there's always been the assumption that if the exposure to workers was below the federal standards, there was no room for lawsuits."

San Onofre's operator, Southern California Edison, maintains that it cannot be sued because Tang's exposure to radiation was well below the level deemed acceptable by the NRC.

"This plant operates under some very conservative and stringent regulations that we feel were certainly met in this case," said Ned Isokawa, an attorney for the utility.

Tang, in a Los Angeles hospital after a bone marrow transplant to fight her acute myelogenous leukemia, is too weak to attend the trial which was scheduled to begin Tuesday. A federal judge set an early trial date after her doctor said her life expectancy was just six months.

Her attorneys contend that the monitoring devices worn by San Onofre workers to measure their personal exposure to radiation were unreliable.

"The badges that people wear when they go into the plant have a very limited area of sensitivity," said Suzelle Smith, a Los Angeles attorney.

Tang was assigned to San Onofre from 1985 to 1986, when the plant had problems with defective fuel rods and so-called fuel fleas.

Fuel fleas are microscopic particles of radioactive material that escape from containment areas. …

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