Feds to Probe Chemical Leak

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 @ 05:08 PM gHale

After a chemical leak at the Metropolis, IL, Honeywell plant Saturday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is launching an investigation.

The Metropolis plant went on Alert on Saturday for two hours beginning at 5:55 p.m. after workers reported a uranium hexafluride (HF6) leak during maintenance. There were no injuries reported as result of the leak and plant officials reported to the NRC no chemicals left the plant site.

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The plant’s safety measures ended up activated and large water sprayers poured onto the leak. Plant officials told the NRC monitoring devices at site reported no radiological release beyond the regulatory limits. The leak happened on the sixth floor of the plant’s Feed Materials Building.

Workers were installing a valve that later leaked, according to NRC officials.

An NRC inspector arrived at the Metropolis facility on Sunday from Atlanta to begin collecting information. The special inspection will attempt to find out how the leak happened, if the company followed proper notification procedures, if the chemical remained within the plant’s boundaries and if the plant’s detection sampling system performed adequately. The NRC will also review corrective procedures the plant has or is planning to take.

“This special inspection will analyze all the details of this incident,” said Victor McCree, the NRC’s Region II administrator. “While no workers were affected and there was no offsite release, any release of uranium hexafluoride is a potentially serious event.”

Metropolis plant officials released the following statement:

“Honeywell takes this incident seriously and is cooperating fully with the NRC inspection. The NRC and other regulatory agencies were alerted to the incident promptly and the plant’s emergency equipment and response teams worked as designed to contain and stop the leak without injuries. The company has made numerous improvements to its emergency response procedures over the last several years and continues to invest significantly in upgrades to the plant, including more than $60 million in projects that directly support health, safety and the environment. The company is committed to the safe operation of this and its other manufacturing facilities.”