United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

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 
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                                                              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.

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                                                              IN 91-44
                                                              July 8, 1991
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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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