Honeywell says it's preparing to restart its Metropolis, Illinois facility.
According to a Honeywell spokesperson, the plant has made several enhancements to its procedures based on a review of the response to the October 26 incident.
Honeywell says the site has enhanced its rigorous emergency response procedures to ensure personnel can view an incident from an expanded number of observation points on site to improve and speed incident classification. The company has also trained its employees in these new procedures and will conduct emergency response drills early next week, culminating in a drill that will be monitored by the NRC and local emergency responders. W
The spokesperson says Honeywell anticipates these enhancements will be recognized by the NRC in a Confirmatory Action Letter that will be issued soon.
According to Honeywell, the leak was caused by a mechanical failure of a piece of equipment near the end of the production process. That equipment does not share a design with any other piece of equipment required to run the plant, and has been isolated from the plant's production processes.
After its own independent inspection, Honeywell says the NRC has concluded that no detectable radioactive material was released from the site.
Honeywell admits in a report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the company should have upgraded the classification of an Oct. 26 leak at the plant.
Honeywell spokesperson Peter Dalpe says the leak, which happened around 7:30 p.m., was due to an equipment failure in the main production building.
A small amount of UF6 was released during the incident. Honeywell initially said that no UF6 material left the building. There remains no indications that harmful concentrations of UF6 or hydrogen fluoride left the Honeywell property or that there was any danger to the surrounding community as a result of the leak, according to Dalpe. There were no injuries reported. 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.
A report filed with the NRC admits that the event “should have been upgraded” at 7:42 p.m. to “Alert” status instead of "plant emergency."
The Metropolis plant converts milled uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas, which is then enriched at other facilities to make fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors, according to the company.
Honeywell released this statement on Nov. 6.:
“Honeywell's Metropolis plant is continuing its investigation into the incident of Oct. 26 and has determined that the leak was caused by a failure of a piece of equipment near the end of the production process. That equipment does not share a design with any other piece of equipment required to run the plant, and has been isolated from the plant's production processes. The investigation has also determined that only a small amount of UF6 was released during the incident and that the plant's extensive safety systems worked as designed during the event. There remain no indications that harmful concentrations of UF6 or hydrogen fluoride left the Honeywell property or that there was any danger to the surrounding community as a result of the leak.
Also, based on preliminary results of the investigation to date and discussions with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant has changed the classification of the incident from a “plant emergency” to an “alert” and has made changes to emergency procedures. Those changes determine how plant incidents will be evaluated and classified going forward. The company anticipates that the NRC will to confirm these changes in a Confirmatory Action Letter.”
United Steelworkers Local 7-669 President, Stephen Lech, said, “It is unfortunate that the NRC was not even going to investigate the event and simply take Honeywell's word for their response until the union sent the Commission a video of the event. We are now beginning to see that the union's claims of an inadequate response were not an over reaction.”