Firm fined over hot gauge

A Tampa company faces fines for using and losing a nuclear gauge on a reservation.

By ASJYLYN LODER, Times Staff Writer
Published September 15, 2007

TAMPA - A Tampa engineering company is facing federal fines over the theft of a nuclear gauge that contains radioactive material, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday.

The portable nuclear gauge, which is used to measure moisture at construction sites, was stolen in early March, the commission said. The commission was notified on March 7 that the device, owned by Tampa-based MC2, was missing from a job site on a Seminole Indian reservation in Clewiston. A member of the public later found it on the side of the road, and kept it until May 11, when it was retrieved by the company.

No one was injured, and the device wasn't damaged, said commission spokeswoman Diane Screnci.

Messages left with MC2, which has headquarters in Atlanta and an office on Hillsborough Avenue, were not returned Friday.

The commission proposed a fine of $3,250 for two violations: failing to properly secure the device, and failing to notify the commission that it was using the gauge at the reservation, which falls under commission jurisdiction. The company has since notified the commission that it has taken measures to secure the gauge, and obtained the proper licenses, the commission said.

Screnci explained that it is important to protect the public from accidental exposure to radiation. "We don't want somebody finding it on the side of the road and inadvertently exposing themselves to the radiation," she said.

People who aren't aware that a piece of equipment is radioactive can suffer burns if they hold or touch it for a long period of time. The gauge contains Americium-241 and Cesium-137, Screnci said. About 50 of the gauges, which are typically used at construction sites, are reported missing every year around the country; about half are recovered.

MC2 has 30 days to pay the fine, or appeal.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at 813 225-3117 or asjylyn@hotmail.com.