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Uranium spill in Appalachia

A uranium spill in Erwin, TN could have been deadly, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report released recently about a 2006 incident.

According to the Knoxville Sentinel:
“The spill last year involved about 35 liters of highly enriched uranium solution that leaked into a protected glovebox, then onto the floor in a facility where highly enriched uranium is “downblended” to a lower enrichment for use in commercial reactors,..

“According to the NRC’s report, there were two chances for a “criticality” accident, where a nuclear chain reaction releases radiation. If such an incident occurred, “it is likely that at least one worker would have received an exposure high enough to cause acute health effects or death,” according to the report.

“More information on the event came to light last week in a letter sent to the NRC by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The NRC had provided the committee with inspection reports on the Erwin facility, which have not been publicly released.

“NRC inspection reports suggest that it was merely a matter of luck that a criticality accident did not occur,” reads the letter, signed by U.S. Reps. John Dingell, the committee’s chair, and Bart Stupak, a subcommittee chair, both Michigan Democrats.



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