Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Paducah Kentucky Dodged a 20,000 Lb Uranium Hexafluoride Bullet

Today the NRC released an event report which we believe indicates that Paducah Kentucky dodged a 20,000 pound Uranium Hexafluoride Bullet on the week before Halloween. The event report states there was only a "small release"; what they don't tell is that 30 milligrams of the stuff is enough to cause "potential irreversible adverse effects" (such as death).

There were 3 things that really drew our attention to the NRC report.

(1) The problem was caused by an escaped manufacturing defect in a pressure vessel, whose catastrophic failure would have released potentially 9 BILLION DEADLY DOSES of UF6

(2) The problem was "fixed" by patching the pressure vessel.

(3) We like Paducah Kentucky, especially the Backwoods BBQ .

Fortunately the failure was not catastrophic, but we have little doubt that a massive glow in the dark, Bhopal like, radiological/chemical catastrophe was dodged in Paducah, Ky. We wager somewhere in a dark room there exists an analysis that quantifies how close the failure came to being disastrous; but we also wager that it will never see the light of day. Given the risks, one must assume that the economic and/or national security risks must have driven the decision to repair instead of replacing the damaged pressure vessel; it certainly does not seem like a decision primarily driven by safety concerns.

Of course the NRC event reports are never written to make the uninformed aware of the Sword of Damocles hovering over their heads. Heck, the report doesn't even let you directly know that the leak happened in Paducah.  For there to be any real chance of these NRC event reports being universally informative, they really ought to be translated by Larry the Cable Guy. In such a case, the current report would have read something like this:"Gaseous Diffusion Plant Makes Pudachinas Poop Their Britches Permanently"

Update: The leaking crack in this incident was originally refereed to as a "LINEAR DEFECT", see our next blogpost for the details:
"Linear Defect" = "Leaking Cracked Steel" With 10 Tons of Liquid and Gaseous Uranium Hexafluoride Behind It.
Alternate title: How to know when there is something that should scare the crap out of you in a NRC event report.

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