The International Atomic Energy Agency said plutonium had leaked in one of its laboratories Sunday but no radiation escaped the building and no one was hurt.
The agency said in a statement the leak happened in the high security area of its nuclear lab in Seibersdorf, 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Vienna.
”Pressure buildup in a small sealed sample bottle in a storage safe resulted in plutonium contamination of a storage room,” the agency said. It said the incident occurred at about 0030GMT Sunday and no one was in the lab at the time.
The agency excluded the possibility that a person caused the incident, IAEA spokesman Ayhan Evrensel said.
The lab is equipped with multiple safety systems, including an air-filtering system to prevent the release of radioactivity into the environment, the IAEA said.
Access to the affected rooms will be restricted until they are decontaminated, according to the agency.
Daniel Kapp, a spokesman for Environment Minister Josef Proell, said no nuclear radiation was measured outside the lab.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, and the lab routinely analyzes small samples of nuclear material like uranium or plutonium as part of the agency’s safeguards verification.
The lab was built in the 1970s and the agency considers it outdated. In November of last year, IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei asked the agency’s member states to make euro27.2 million (US$39.5 million) available to modernize the lab.
IAEA spokesman Evrensel said Sunday’s incident was a one-time event that had nothing to do with the lab being outdated.
”This could have happened in even the most up-to-date lab,” Evrensel told The Associated Press.