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Information Notice No. 91-44: Improper Control of Chemicals in Nuclear Fuel Fabrication
UNITED STATES NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION OFFICE OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL SAFETY AND SAFEGUARDS WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555 July 8, 1991 Information Notice No. 91-44: IMPROPER CONTROL OF CHEMICALS IN NUCLEAR FUEL FABRICATION Addressees: All nuclear fuel facilities. Purpose: This information notice is intended to inform licensees who use chemicals in nuclear fuel production activities of improper handling practices that resulted in the inadvertent introduction of the wrong chemicals into production operations. This notice also serves to remind licensees of the importance of establishing a procedure to adequately identify, store, and handle incoming shipments of chemicals and other production-related materials. Recipients should review this information and consider actions, as appropriate, to prevent a similar occurrence at their facilities. However, suggestions contained in this information notice do not constitute any new Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements, and no specific action or written response is required. Description of Circumstances: The following cases illustrate improper handling of chemicals used at nuclear fuel facilities: Case 1: A truck delivering nitric acid to a nuclear fuel facility pumped the acid into a hydrochloric acid storage tank outside the main processing building. The tank overfilled and the excess acid flowed into the containment dike. The acid fumes entered the main processing building which is maintained at a negative pressure. When the source of the acid fumes could not be located immediately, the licensee promptly evacuated the building by manually activating the criticality alarm. Nine members of the facility's response team involved in searching for the source of the acid fumes were subsequently sent to the local hospital due to upper respiratory tract and eye irritations from the acid fumes, but were later released without treatment. During the course of a preliminary investigation of this incident, it was determined that the driver of the tanker truck containing nitric acid told a licensee representative that he was delivering hydrochloric acid. Consequently, he was directed to discharge the contents into the hydrochloric acid storage tank. There was no indication that shipping papers were reviewed before making the discharge, nor indication that a confirming laboratory analysis was performed. 9107020082 . IN 91-44 July 8, 1991 Page 2 of 3 Case 2: A nuclear fuel facility received four 55-gallon drums marked "AMSCO 140/TBP," which is a chemical mixture used in the solvent-extraction process in scrap recovery. One drum was introduced into the extraction system but did not perform properly (i.e., it failed to extract uranium from the feed solution). Chemical analysis of samples collected from the drum identified the material as toluene. Samples from a second drum were collected and sent to the supplier, who confirmed that the material was toluene. Facility personnel drained and flushed the system and checked the pipes and valves for damage. As a result of introduction of the improper chemical into the recovery process, facility personnel had to replace several damaged/leaking valves caused by chemical corrosion. Discussion: The events described in this information notice emphasize the need for licensees to adequately identify, store, and handle chemicals that will be used in nuclear fuel production activities. Some of the actions that should be considered are: - Adequately marking and labeling storage tanks, access points, pipes, lines, and valves to preclude the inadvertent addition of the wrong chemical into storage tanks and process lines. - Establishing procedures to check and verify the contents of containers of chemicals before their addition to storage tanks or direct introduction into production operations. - Establishing procedures to adequately assess storage-tank content levels before the addition of more material. - Requiring authorized personnel to review shipping manifests, accept delivery, and directly supervise delivery personnel, as the materials are off-loaded. - Requiring storage tank areas to be periodically inspected to ensure that there are adequate markings and labels, spill containment systems are maintained, personal protective equipment and safety showers are available where required, and facilities are safe for continued operations. - Establishing emergency response procedures for chemical spills and other credible chemical emergencies. - Requiring response personnel to be adequately trained and to have appropriate protective equipment. - Establishing a Hazard Communication Program as required by Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910.1200. . IN 91-44 July 8, 1991 Page 3 of 3 Licensees should also conduct hazard analyses of all operations to identify those operations and conditions that may cause or contribute to an accident, incident, or emergency condition that adversely impacts on production operations, facilities, equipment, and personnel. Corrective measures should be implemented, as warranted by these analyses, to eliminate or reduce the impact of any incidents or accidents; and licensees should periodically retrain employees on the hazards involved when conducting specific operations. No specific action or written response is required by this information notice. If you have any questions, please contact the technical contacts listed below or the appropriate regional office. Richard E. Cunningham, Director Division of Industrial and Medical Nuclear Safety Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards Technical Contacts: Edward McAlpine, RII (404) 331-5547 Edwin D. Flack, NMSS (301) 492-0405 Attachments: 1. List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices 2. List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices .
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