Fluoride Action Network

Hydrogen fluoride leak at Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons plant

Source: Knox News / Frank Munger | February 4th, 2009
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

There was a leak at Y-12, after all (updated)

It turns out there was a leak of hydrogen fluoride Monday at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. A spokeswoman confirmed today that a “small amount” of material did escape from a roof-top test line at the plant’s 9212 production facility.

“Further investigation into the potential hydrogen fluoride (HF) leak has found that a small amount of material, less than 100 grams (or less than a half cup) did escape from a small sampling line,” Y-12 spokeswoman Ellen Boatner said.

On Tuesday, the plant had said a worker had reported a possible problem, but said that a subsequent investiation did not find evidence of a leak.

According to today’s info released by B&W, the plant contractor, “A worker noticed a small white cloud that appeared to come from the area of the sampling line, and he also noticed a slight acidic smell.”

That worker “immediately left the area and made the appropriate notifications,” the B&W statement said.

“Work was immediately stopped and access to the area restricted. Other precautionary actions included establishing a curfew for the site population. Also as a precaution, the employee was sent to Y-12’s medical facility for evaluation. No treatment was necessary, and the employee was released.”

“Curfew” is a safety response to emergency situations.

Here is a definition offered by B&W: “Curfew is a population control action designed to be used in an emergency response situation in which there is a need to control movement throughout the site. Curfew restricts the site population in the announced, designated areas to remain within their building or facility or to enter and to remain in the nearest building or facility until instructions are given releasing the curfew.”

After taking samples Monday, the responders “determined that there were no distinguishable levels of HF present, and the curfew was lifted.”

Later that evening, “upon removal of the line’s insulation cover, evidence of a leak was confirmed,” B&W said.

Boatner said Y-12 personnel are evaluating the leak to determine the casue and see if any repairs to the system are needed.