Environment News Service

URANIUM PLANT FINED OVER DECEMBER FIRE

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plans to fine the U.S. Enrichment Corporation $55,000 for failing to declare an alert under its emergency plan during a fire on December 9, 1998, at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant at Piketon, Ohio. The plant processes uranium for use in fuel for commercial nuclear power plants. The fire damaged equipment in the portion of the plant used to remove waste gases from the processing system. NRC regional administrator James Dyer said, "The failure to declare an alert during this event resulted in not activating the onsite emergency operations facility which would have provided technical and management support to the onsite response efforts." As a result, plant personnel took longer to fight the fire and did not take prompt action to control any uranium still in the system after the fire was extinguished. "Failure to declare an alert also resulting in not notifying local, state and Federal agencies of the event or its significance, so that they could fulfill their emergency response functions," added Dyer. The fire lasted about two hours. Personnel battled thick smoke, 20-foot flames, and large quantities of oil spilled on the floor of the building. Four people received minor injuries. The fire was contained in one part of the building, and environmental monitoring by the company showed no evidence of the release of uranium outside the building.

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