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Nuclear HAZMAT Event– Radioactive Materials/Transportation Leak: White Mesa Mill, Utah


Nuclear Event in USA on Thursday, 12 January, 2017 at 13:00 [MST].


The following report was received from the State of Utah via email:

“DWMRC [Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control] was notified of the event at about 1500 MST, on January 12, 2017. The licensee indicated that the shipper, Honeywell (Converdyne) had notified the NRC and the US DOT. This incident report is the initial notification of the NRC Operations Center from the DWMRC.

“The following description is the initial information received by DWMRC. The information will be updated as the Division obtains more information.

“A van carrying [three] barrels of [solid and wet] radioactive materials was received at the White Mesa Mill. When the employees were unloading the van they realized that a barrel, maybe two, had rusted bottoms and was leaking. Although the bottom of the barrels were not rusted through, they were characterized as ‘being soft’. The barrels were on plastic sheeting that should have restricted the leaking materials to the plastic; however, when the barrels were unloaded, the employees noted that there was a hole in the sheeting. When the RSO was informed of the incident and arrived at the van, he noted that there was visible leakage on the girders and the siding of the van. Unfortunately, he was unable to take measurements of the area where the leak occurred to determine the radiation levels. The RSO [Radiation Safety Officer] stated that the van had been pulled in and cleaned prior to any measurements being taken, so the only measurements were taken after the van was cleaned.”


“On January 12, 2017, at approximately 1142 MST, a TAM International van carrying barrels of KOH alternate feed materials from Honeywell International arrived at the White Mesa Mill Scale house. According to Honeywell the materials are basically uranium ore concentrates. The White Mesa employees began unloading the van, but as they began offloading some of the last barrels, they noticed that some of the barrels were leaking. From what they could tell, three barrels were potentially leaking . The barrels were not rusted through, but were ‘soft’ and allowed liquid contained in the solid materials to leak from the barrel. The material leaked from the barrel onto a plastic sheet; however, the plastic sheet had an opening (rip, tear) through which the material was able to pass. The RSO [Radiation Safety Officer] was notified of the event at about 1300 MST.

“When the RSO reached the van, the employees had completed emptying the van and had ‘cleaned’ the van. The RSO indicated he was able to see visible evidence that the material had been able to leak from the van, but the area had been cleaned and no valid measurements or samples of the materials leaked from the van were able to be taken. Pictures were taken and from the pictures provided to the Division [Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control], it appears that only a small quantity of liquid material was leaking from the barrels. Because the contents of the barrels are primarily solid and only contain small amounts of liquid and the liquid contents in the barrels were leaking through the bottom of the barrel, through a plastic sheet, across the van floor and out of the van along a girder and the siding, it is likely that only small quantities of materials were leaking from the van. The weather across the nation has been fairly stormy this past week and has included both rain and snow. Because of the rain and snow that has been occurring while the vehicle was traveling to the Mill site, it is likely that any small amounts of materials that leaked from the van were subsequently washed away and diluted. The Mill analyzes each alternate feed stream annually to verify the isotopic content of the alternate feed. At the last verification, the Honeywell KOH material contained, approximately 633,000 mg/kg uranium (about 61% uranium), 39 pCi/g Pb-210, 44.6 pCi/g Ra-226, 358 pCi/g Th-230, and 27 pCi/g Th-232.”

This event was also reported by National Response Center to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission , Report # 1168447, on 01/12/17 at 1720 EST.

Utah Event Number: UT170001

Source: NRC  Event Number: 52488


See Also

Conventional Uranium Production: The White Mesa Mill

The White Mesa Mill is one of Energy Fuels’ strategic assets, as it is the only fully-licensed and operating conventional uranium mill in the United States, and one of only three in North America. White Mesa is strategically located in Blanding, Utah, central to the highest-grade uranium mines in the United States. Over the last five years, the mill has averaged approximately one million pounds of U3O8 production per year. — Uranium | Investing News (excerpt)

Conventional Uranium Production: The White Mesa Mill

Conventional Uranium Production: The White Mesa Mill. Image: Energy Fuels Inc. via Investing News – Energy Fuels – America’s Premier Uranium Producer

White Mesa Uranium Mill Fact Sheet

Energy Fuels Inc.

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