August 16, 2001
DOE awaits BNFL report on fire at K-25
by Paul Parson
Oak Ridger staff

The Department of Energy is awaiting results from BNFL Inc.'s investigation of a July 25 fire at the Oak Ridge K-25 site before approving the restart of the K-31 converter disassembly area. DOE spokesman Steven Wyatt said the federal agency expects BNFL will present those findings next week.

"The approval to restart will be based upon the investigation results and corrective actions put in place," Wyatt said. Except for the K-31 converter disassembly area, where the fire occurred, all other work has been restarted within K-31 and K-33, according to Wyatt.

The July 25 fire was reported at 6:32 a.m. and was out by 7:54 a.m. The fire started as equipment was being disassembled with a cutting torch. No injuries were reported.

"DOE has not issued any warnings or fines regarding the fire, except that we expect BNFL, as we do all contractors on our sites, to perform the work safely and within all regulations," Wyatt said. "Until DOE sees the investigation results, there is no need to issue any warnings on the issue."

Wyatt said there are hazardous materials within the converter, including uranium.

"DOE doesn't think any hazardous materials or chemicals were released as a result of the fire, because all sampling results reported to date have shown no indication of any releases from the fire to the workers or the public," Wyatt added.


    Some speculate that the fire was a result of something like chlorine tri-fluoride, ClF3, left in the converter.

    ClF3 is injected into converters or instrument lines to clean out uranium deposits and re-fluorinate the uranium into UF-6.    Many times the heat of the reaction from injection of ClF3 will make instrument lines glow red hot and if not piched off will set off aluminum and UF-6 reactions in the converters and make the entire thing get red hot and melt down.

 With any kind of fire, there will be releases of fluoride gases, which are very toxic.