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Explosion at Honeywell uranium enrichment plant highlights safety problems

Local community members are claiming that Honeywell is also not properly reporting safety violations at the nuclear facility in Metropolis……The Environmental Protection Agency has also been very critical of the safety record of the uranium enrichment facility.

Explosion Rocks Honeywell Uranium Facility Run by Scab Workers, THE HUFFINGTON POST, Mike Elk, September 7, 2010:  The Metropolis uranium facility is the only one in the United States that can convert U308 into the extremely deadly UF6. Because the plant is the only conversion facility of its kind in the United States, familiarity with the Metropolis plant, and not just generic experience in the field, is essential to ensuring the plant’s safety………..……On Saturday, nuclear regulators allowed Honeywell to start up core production at the facility, where core production had been shut down for over two months due to concerns about the training of replacement workers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission delayed reopening the plant for several days after questions were raised about the unusually high levels of uranium that were appearing in the urine tests of several nuclear workers.

The following day, a hydrogen explosion rocked the plant. The blast shook the ground in front of the plant and could be heard a mile away, according to local reports. State Trooper Bridget Rice said that police were called to investigate to the scene of the explosion after receiving several phone calls reporting an explosion at the plant. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah also confirmed that there was indeed “a small hydrogen explosion that was very loud” at the Metropolis facility.

The plant splits hydrofluoric acid into hydrogen and fluoride. The hydrogen then gets scrubbed and released into the atmosphere and fluorine goes into the process. If the hydrogen and fluorine recombine, it can be very reactive and cause a non-radioactive hydrogen explosion. On Saturday, hydrogen was accidentally recombined with fluorine causing a massive explosion that could be heard a mile away and leading to the plant being temporarily shut down…..

Local union officials claim that the workers are not properly trained to work in the plant. In a statement released last week USW Local 7-699 claimed, “The Union workforce was required to have extensive on-the-job training on running units from qualified trainers for several months prior to being qualified. We have recently learned that several Fluorination workers were deemed ‘qualified’ by company personnel after one week of training……

Local community members are claiming that Honeywell is also not properly reporting safety violations at the nuclear facility in Metropolis. A recent report by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says Honeywell has failed to notify the NRC of 37 reportable unplanned, uranium contamination events at its Metropolis facility between January 2008 and January 2010.

The Metropolis facility had previously been shut down after a release of deadly toxic UF6 gas, which hospitalized four community members and lead to evacuations of dozens of residents near the plant. …..The Environmental Protection Agency has also been very critical of the safety record of the uranium enrichment facility.

Mike Elk: Explosion Rocks Honeywell Uranium Facility Run by Scab Workers

September 8, 2010 - Posted by | safety, USA | , , , , ,

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