Information Notice No. 91-44: Improper Control of Chemicals in Nuclear Fuel Fabrication
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
All nuclear fuel facilities.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Edwin D. Flack, NMSS
1. List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
2. List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices
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