LACEY — Officials say a Holtec employee was splashed with radioactive water in late February when a device dislodged from a vent on a canister holding spent nuclear fuel at the defunct New Jersey nuclear power plant.

The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, which is undergoing decommissioning, was cited by federal regulators for a low-level safety violation, the Asbury Park Press reported Wednesday.

Officials say the employee was wearing protective gear and was checked for contamination before returning to work.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that a test of a lid seal resulted in a leak through the cask’s vent. The spill occurred when a device used to seal the casks became disengaged after snap rings failed, according to Sheehan.

The contaminated water spilled onto the worker and spread to two levels of the reactor building.

The employee was exposed to a radiation dose of less than 10 mrem, or millirem.

“To put that dose in perspective, the annual occupational dose limit for nuclear power plant workers is 5,000 millirems, or 5 rems,” Sheehan said.

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the average American receives roughly 0.62 rem (620 millirem) in a year, half of which is from background radiation in the environment. For comparison, a chest x-ray is about 10 millirem, according to the agency.

“In response to this event, Holtec stopped additional spent fuel loadings for several days as it examined the equipment and procedures,” said Holtec spokesperson Joseph Delmar. “A modification was made to the valve design, loading procedures were revised, and additional training of the cask loading team was conducted. The fuel loading campaign safely resumed and was completed in late May without any further incident.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article should have said that the lid of the storage cask did not come off. 

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