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Radioactive Leak Found After 3 Weeks

January 13, 1986|Associated Press

PIKETON, Ohio — Radioactive material used to enrich uranium fuel for nuclear reactors at a U.S. Department of Energy plant was leaking for three weeks before the leak was detected, but the company said Sunday that there was no abnormal level of radioactivity in the air.

The escape of 108.8 pounds of the gas uranium hexafluoride was discovered Friday, said Tim Matchett of the Goodyear Atomic Corp., which operates the plant for the DOE.

"There was no significant concentration (in the air)," Matchett said of air-monitoring results. "It provides further confirmation that there would be no adverse effects."

The gas apparently escaped through a vent at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The leak was discovered when data from a new emissions-monitoring system was checked, Matchett said.

The leaked material was "slightly more radioactive than that which would be found in nature," he said.

Uranium hexafluoride is used to enrich uranium for use in nuclear reactors. Ingested in harmful doses, the compound can cause liver damage and other illness.

At a uranium-processing plant owned by Kerr-McGee Corp. in Webbers Falls, Okla., 29,500 pounds of the same material escaped from a ruptured tank on Jan. 4, killing one worker and sending more than 100 other people to hospitals.

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