Bulletin 75-07: Nuclear Engineering Company, Inc. (NECO)


IE Bulletin No. 75-07                              Date: November 26, 1975 


Nuclear Engineering Company, Inc. (NECO), Louisville, Kentucky notified the 
Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation and IE:III on, respectively, June 30, 1975, 
and July 2, 1975, that they had received a waste shipment at their Beatty, 
Nevada burial site from the Cimarron Plutonium facility in a Super Tiger 
shipping container (Certificate No. 6400) on June 25, 1975. When the 
shipment was opened by NECO on June 26, 1975, they found evidence that an 
exothermic reaction had taken place inside a DOT Specification 12B 
fiberboard carton containing a 24" x 24" x 12" acid resistant HEPA filter. 
The box was thermally hot on receipt and the outside of the box was 
scorched. The nylon filament tape used to seal the box had melted, fusing 
the box to another box. Less than 450 c/m of alpha contamination was 
detected on the box and it was immediately buried. 

This filter was identified as one serving a glovebox system in which nitric 
acid is used to dissolve scrap oxide materials for purification. Nitrogen 
oxide gases and water vapor were released through the filter. The filter had
been bagged out in a 4 mil polyethylene (PE) bag, placed in the original 
shipping carton, packaged again in another PE bag before being placed in the
DOT 12B fiberboard carton. On another occasion a similar filter package had 
emitted nitrogen oxide fumes while in storage at the Kerr-McGee plutonium 

The cause of the reaction is unknown, since most of the constituent 
materials in the HEPA filter do not readily react with nitric acid. The 
exothermic reaction may have occurred in extraneous materials placed in the 
package or in the packaging material itself. 


The following actions are requested of reprocessing plants, fuel cycle 
plants and major laboratory licensees:  


     1.   Review your present or planned operations to determine if there 
          are processes that emit corrosive gases, particularly nitrogen 
          oxide, into ventilation systems filtered by HEPA filters. 

     2.   Review your procedures for the handling, packaging, storing, and 
          shipping of materials, particularly cellulose materials or other 
          readily oxidizable substances that have been exposed to nitric 
          acid, nitrogen oxide gases, or other oxidizing agents, to 
          determine if appropriate precautions are being taken to preclude 
          an exothermic reaction. 
     3.   Report to this office, in writing within 30 days of the date of 
          this Bulletin, the results of your review and, if appropriate, the
          actions you have taken or planned to correct these problems. 
          Records of your evaluations should be maintained for examination 
          during the next routine inspection of your facility. 

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