dangers of nuclear, David Cote, Honeywell, Illinois, Kentucky, Major hazard managment, major hazards, Metropolis Illinois, Mississippi River, nuclear accident, nuclear energy, nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power, Ohio River, Paducah, risk management, uranium conversion, uranium enrichment, uranium hexafluoride, uranium hexafluoride leak, worker lockout
“On October 26, at 8:24 p.m. EST, Honeywell Metropolis Works experienced a leak of UF6 inside the Feed Materials Building (FMB). The initial indication was a chemical alarm near the UF6 cold traps. An operator noticed on the room monitor video screen a haze in the air inside the fourth floor of the FMB. This haze indicated a UF6 leak. The leak occurred during a routine sublimation and draining of a cold trap. Honeywell operators implemented emergency procedures to shut down and evacuate the FMB. Emergency responders reentered the FMB to isolate the cold trap and stop the leak. Honeywell stated that the haze in the FMB was cleared by 8:55 p.m. EST. An “All Clear” was declared by Honeywell at 3:16 a.m. EST on October 27. Members of the public outside the plant reported a cloud emanating from the building for five minutes before the mitigation spray towers were activated by Honeywell staff. The plant is currently shut down. No injuries were reported.” http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1430/ML14300A675.pdf (Emphasis our own)
“When UF6 comes into contact with water, such as water vapor in the air, the UF6 and water react, forming corrosive hydrogen fluoride (HF) and a uranium-fluoride compound called uranyl fluoride (UO2F2).” http://web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/guide/uf6/
Image from video: http://youtu.be/GN36STc-U-o
Another video: http://youtu.be/c7xIluk8Ejc
United Steel Workers Statement:
“USW: Contractor-Installed Equipment Involved in Suspected Major Leak at Honeywell Plant
Experienced union employees remain locked out by company
Metropolis, Ill. (October 27, 2014) – The United Steelworkers (USW) union is calling for an investigation after photos and videos taken Sunday evening showed suspected hazardous gas escaping the Honeywell uranium conversion facility in Metropolis, Ill.
The suspected release of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) comes nearly three months after Honeywell locked out 150 USW Local 7-669 members on Aug. 2 and replaced a group of experienced and well-trained workers with temporary laborers who lack adequate experience in dealing with hazardous substances.
“It is time for Honeywell to end this senseless lockout, return these 150 experienced workers to their jobs, and come to terms on a new, fair contract agreement,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.
“Furthermore, the USW calls on U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who represents at least half of the permanent Honeywell workforce, to seek a full investigation into this incident to make sure it never happens again. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must perform an independent investigation of the release and the failed response.”
Rep. John Shimkus(R, IL), whose district includes Metropolis, is the senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but has failed to take issue with the facility. Shimkus’ top campaign contributor is Honeywell Int.
In conversations with USW Local 7-669 President Stephen Lech, an NRC representative blamed Sunday’s leak on the failure of equipment that was installed by outside contractors, work that was previously done in-house by USW members.
UF6, used in the uranium enrichment process, is highly corrosive and reactive and can cause severe burns and serious radiation exposure upon contact with skin.
While a Honeywell representative in New Jersey told local media that “there is no indication that any material has left the building,” raw video taken outside the plant (see links below) shows the suspected gas leaving the building for at least six minutes before water mitigation towers were activated.
Witnesses who saw the plume leaving the plant property placed multiple 911 calls but were told that the release was “in house” and “under control.”
“There was a systematic breakdown in the response to the emergency. It wasn’t just our people; local citizens called 911 and were told that the company has reported the situation to be under control, all while they watched the gaseous vapor leave the building and the site,” said Lech, who was on the scene during the incident. “A company spokesman in New Jersey and an NRC office in Georgia were reporting on events in Metropolis while we watched the reality of the situation unfold.”
The USW also is calling for an immediate “town hall” meeting with the company to provide the community and employees with an explanation and to offer citizens a chance to voice their concerns.
“By continuing this foolish lockout, Honeywell is putting not just employees but an entire community at risk of disaster,” said USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Mike Wright. “This situation has to end.”
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a wide range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies.” http://usw7-669.com/story/contractor-installed-equipment-involved-suspected-major-leak-honeywell-plant
In an August 18th letter to Honeywell CEO David Cote, the General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union pointed out:
“the facility converts milled uranium, known as yellowcake uranium, into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that is used in nuclear fuel enrichment. The potentially dangerous process requires the experience and knowledge of the now locked out members of the United Steelworkers. During the last lock-out, there were two near-miss tragedies due to mishandling of dangerous chemicals, and management was cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for helping replacement scab workers to cheat on exams that ultimately allowed them to operate the facility.” Furthermore, the General Secretary appears to have prophetically stated that: “your company would rather risk a nuclear accident than bargain in good faith with the United Steelworkers Local 7-669.” Read the entire letter here: http://usw7-669.com/sites/usw7-669.com/files/industriall_global_union_letter_on_lock-out_at_honeywell_operation_in_metropolis_illinois_18-08-2014.pdf (Emphasis added)
David Cote has been CEO of Honeywell since 2002. Though a Republican, he is said to be close to President Obama. Obama selected him to be on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, advising on the US debt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_M._Cote Cote was recently elected to the New York Federal Reserve’s Board of Directors. http://www.newyorkfed. org/newsevents/news/aboutthefed/2014/oa140307.html
Obama was a top recipient of Honeywell largesse, having received $93,496 in campaign donations from Honeywell (including employees, their family members, and its PAC). http://influenceexplorer.com/organization/honeywell-international/2d625ce311ff4aa091ae66f440c2a62f
For more on Honeywell campaign donations and members of the US Congress who own Honeywell stock, see: http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000334
Honeywell also is one of the contractors at the Savannah River Site, as part of the “Savannah River Nuclear Solutions” consortium: http://www.srs. gov/general/news/factsheets/srs.pdf