Fluoride Action Network

ANALYSIS: Updated HPP Based on Public Documents and Eyewitness Accounts

Source: Huntington News | July 23rd, 2013 | By Tony Rutherford
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

The Huntington Pilot Plant (HPP) existed on the International Nickel Company campus in Huntington, WV from the early 1950s until 1979. The Atomic Energy Commission leased facility only operated from the early 50s until the early 60s. It sat intact on “cold standby” until 1978. At that time (and through 1979), it was dismantled and contaminated portions (based on technology of that era) taken to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Piketon, Ohio. According to eyewitnesses, it was buried under machine gun guard in a then classified section of the grounds.

Later, substances from that area leaked into a below ground aquifer.

A PGDP former employee has stated that sending barrier materials from Piketon to Huntington for recycling and reprocessing contaminated the HPP. NIOSH acknowledges that materials came from Piketon, Paducah and the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

HPP active operations apparently included processing of uranium materials sent to the diffusion plants, but, at some time, the HPP began recycling /reprocessing of barrier materials already exposed to radiation sent from the plants to Huntington for the separation of uranium, plutonium and nickel. The finished products were shipped back to the diffusion plants. Residue has been assumed to be low level radioactive waste. It is not certain where waste products from HPP went during operation, during standby, and those materials not sent for burial at Piketon. A demolition contract on the HPP indicated that Cleveland Construction had the right to salvage materials, not owned by the Atomic Energy Commission.

Although the assumptions by NIOSH lower the enriched materials at Huntington to a 2% median, detailed documents have described the weapons grade conversion of Uranium to yellowcake  (90%) enrichment. Before enrichment, yellowcake is converted to a volatile material called “hex” (uranium hexafluoride), according to nearcriticalwill.org. The “hex” process has been documented at Portsmouth, including an injury related accident where one or more workers were exposed.

Moreover, the “hex” reacts readily with moisture, releasing highly toxic hydrofluoric acid. One accident involving the acid occurred at Sequoyah Fuels conversion plant in Gore, Oklahoma. One one worker perished, 42 others were hospitalized, and approximately 100 residents. http://ieer.org/resource/factsheets/uranium-its-uses-and-hazards/#note-1… (Footnote 11).

Reprocessing has been said to be the “dirtiest” operation in the nuclear fuel cycle, producing the most radioactive waste and higher level waste some of which has been buried in underground tanks at SRS. (No documentation exists to demonstrate that any waste from HPP was taken to SRS.)

Also, not addressed in the report, the decision to dismantle the HPP building and its burial in Piketon, which at the time of the decision was classified. After it sat on the property in “cold stand by,” what determinations , perhaps, now unclassified, led to the removal and burial decision after it had sat on site in Huntington for more than 15 years?

  1. Fissile Materials (25.13 KB)
  2. Early Exposures (24.59 KB)
  3. Testimony of Workers (34.09 KB)