United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment



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U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, REGION III

801 Warrenville Road, Lisle IL 60532

CONTACT:    Jan Strasma (630) 829-9663/e-mail: rjs2@nrc.gov
Angela Greenman (630) 829-9662/e-mail: opa3@nrc.gov

NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT: RIII-98-12

February 3, 1998

NRC SPECIAL INSPECTION TEAM TO PRESENT PRELIMINARY FINDINGS ON SMALL URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE RELEASE AT ALLIED-SIGNAL PLANT

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will meet Friday, February 6, with representatives of Allied-Signal, Inc., to discuss the preliminary findings of the NRC Augmented Inspection Team's review of the recent small release of uranium hexafluoride at the company's uranium processing plant in Metropolis, Illinois.

The meeting, which is open to public observation, will start at 10 a.m. in the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union Hall, Highway 45 North, just east of the Metropolis Works Facility.

Allied-Signal's facility converts yellowcake (processed uranium ore) into uranium hexafluoride for further processing at an enrichment plant.

A small release of uranium hexafluoride occurred on January 27 when three workers loosened a flange during maintenance work in the uranium conversion building. The three-member inspection team, which was at Allied-Signal January 27-30, reviewed details of the incident and the company's response.

The workers involved were wearing respirators and protective clothing but received minor skin irritations to their necks and arms. (When exposed to moisture in the air, uranium hexafluoride forms hydrogen fluoride which can cause chemical burns.)

One worker received a small uranium uptake when he had to remove his respirator to report the release over the phone. His uptake was less than 10 percent of the weekly worker limit.

Environmental samples and radiation surveys conducted by the company and reviewed by NRC inspectors indicated that the release did not leave the site. Radiation measurements were normal at the facility's fence line during and after the incident.

A written inspection report will be issued in three to four weeks, and will be available to the public.


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