Fluoride Action Network

Electro Metallurgical site in Niagara Falls NY, 1942-47: NIOSH Special Exposure Cohort

Source: SEC Petition Evaluation Report Petition SEC-00136, Rev. 1 | January 31st, 2012 | By S. E. Glover
Location: United States, New York
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

This report (pages 1-51) evaluates the feasibility of reconstructing doses for all workers who worked in any area at the Electro Metallurgical (also known as Electro Met) for the period from August 13, 1942 through June 30, 1953. It provides information and analyses germane to considering a petition for adding a class of employees to the congressionally-created SEC (Special Exposure Cohort)

Petitioner – Requested Class Definition
All workers who worked in any area at the Electro Metallurgical Corporation facility, for the period from August 13, 1942 through December 31, 1953.

Class Evaluated by NIOSH
All workers who worked in any area at the Electro Metallurgical Corporation for the period from August 13, 1942 through June 30, 1953.

NIOSH-Proposed Class(es) to be Added to the SEC (Special Exposure Cohort)
All employees of the Department of Energy, its predecessor agencies, and their contractors and subcontractors who worked at the Electro Metallurgical site in Niagara Falls, New York, for the period from August 13, 1942 through December 31, 1947, for a number of work days aggregating at least 250 work days, occurring either solely under this employment, or in combination with work days within the parameters established for one or more other classes of employees in the Special Exposure Cohort.

A few excerpts:

… Electro Met, a subsidiary of Union Carbide and Cargon Corporation, received uranium tetrafluoride from Union Carbide’s Linde Air Products Division plant at Tonawanda, New York, and converted it into uranium metal. The uranium metal products were primarily shipped to Hanford Engineer Works, but were also shipped to Argonne National Laboratory or DuPont’s Chambers Works for testing. The uranium metal products were shipped to Simonds Saw and Steel, Vulcan Crucible Steel Company, Revere Copper and Brass Company, or Joslyn Manufacturing and Supply Company for rolling. Process residues were shipped to other sites, including Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, Mallinckrodt Chemical Company, Vitro Manufacturing, DuPont Chambers Works, and Hooker Electrochemical, for uranium recovery, storage, or disposal. In addition to uranium-metal production from green salt, Electro Met also recast scrap metal from Simonds Saw and Steel, Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company, and American Rolling Mill Company. Electro Met’s contract also contained a provision for conducting research and development (DOE, 1986).

Initial furnace operations for uranium processing in the new plant began in April 1943 (NYOO, 1951, p. 31). Three shifts per day were run at full operations. The plant produced uranium metal by reducing uranium tetrafluoride with magnesium metal under high temperature. The uranium tetrafluoride (green salt) and magnesium were placed in a closed-metal container called a “bomb,” which was then heated in a furnace to initiate the reaction. The reaction was instantaneous and resulted in the formation of a pool of molten uranium in the container, topped with the magnesium fluoride formed as the byproduct of the reaction (NYOO, 1951, p. 9). The metals were cast into 110-135 kilogram ingots. After cooling, the bomb was opened and the uranium metal was removed, any adhering slag was chipped off the metallic agglomerate. Cleaned metal was then melted in a vacuum furnace and cast into billets in preparation for delivery to other facilities (NYOO, 1951, p. 10). With the exception of a standby period from September 1, 1946 through September 30, 1947, production ran from April 1943 until September 1949 (DOE, 1986). In August 1949, as Electro Met prepared to enter a standby mode at the end of September 1949, the NYOO Health and Safety Division performed occupational exposure assessments that prescribed health and safety improvements associated with the Electro Met operations (Hayden, 1948; Dust Sample Results, Aug. 1949).

… Electro Met employed 70 men to work on the reduction process (NYOO, 1951, pdf p. 52). The process of reducing uranium tetrafluoride to uranium metal was comprised of several steps performed by different job types. Those with the highest potential for exposure to radiation or radioactive materials are described in Table 5-2 below (Dust Sample Results, Dec. 1947-May 1948).=

See Table 5- 2: The Uranium Tetrafluoride-to- Metal Reduction Process

5.2.1 Internal Radiological Exposure Sources from Electro Met Operations
The primary source of internal radiological exposure resulting from Electro Met operations was inhalation and/or ingestion of uranium metal or uranium tetrafluoride.