x
Breaking News
More () »

Knoxville Breaking News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WBIR.com

All nuclear material safe, no injuries after chemical leak at Y-12 National Security Complex

The incident occurred at 7:52 a.m.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Update (10:30 a.m.):  Hydrogen fluoride, a potentially deadly chemical, was accidentally released in a small enclosure at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and required an emergency response Thursday morning.

RELATED: What is hydrogen fluoride?

Two sensors went off shortly before 8 a.m. indicating the chemical had been released in an area about the size of a walk-in closet within a large room at 9212, the complex that handles uranium processing, officials said.

At that time, Y-12 initiated its emergency response for the incident.

By sometime around 9 a.m., the incident was under control and, during the press conference, the all-clear was given regarding the incident.

Officials confirmed personnel in an isolated area near the chemical were evacuated, although no external sensors went off, and there was never any danger to personnel. 

Y-12 has an incident investigation going on to uncover how much of the chemical was leaked out. There was no indication it was a malevolent event or that the chemical was released from an external source, officials said.

But, they said they do have a good idea of where exactly the leak occurred in terms of line, tank, connection.

There was no impact to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a spokesperson confirmed.

Update (9:51 a.m.): An incident at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge required the complex's emergency response personnel to be on the scene Thursday morning, a news release from the complex said.

Sensors found a possible release of hydrogen fluoride in gaseous form within a processing enclosure about the size of a walk-in closet during normal operations, according to a tweet from Y-12's account and a press conference.

No injuries were reported from the incident, according to another tweet. On-site monitoring found no detectable levels of the chemical outside of the enclosure and systems in place were working properly to reduce chemical levels within the enclosure.

All nuclear material was safe and there was no indication of a "malevolent event." 

Employees were initially evacuated from the area, but had been cleared to return back to work for normal operations as of 9:45 a.m. after the emergency was deemed "under control."

Hydrogen fluoride is a colorless liquid or gas that can cause major injuries or even death if ingested, according to the CDC. 

Hydrogen fluoride is "a chemical compound that contains fluorine. It can exist as a colorless gas or as a fuming liquid, or it can be dissolved in water," according to the CDC. 

When hydrogen fluoride is dissolved in water, it could be called hydrofluoric acid, the CDC said.

If swallowed, it could affect major internal organs and be fatal, the CDC said.

"As a gas, even at low levels, can irritate the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Breathing in hydrogen fluoride at high levels or in combination with skin contact can cause death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs."

"Even small splashes of high-concentration hydrogen fluoride products on the skin can be fatal. Skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may not cause immediate pain or visible skin damage(signs of exposure). Often, patients exposed to low concentrations of hydrogen fluoride on the skin do not show effects or experience pain immediately. And, severe pain at the exposure site may be the only symptom for several hours. Visible damage may not appear until 12 to 24 hours after the exposure."

It is used to "make refrigerants, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, high-octane gasoline, aluminum, plastics, electrical components, and fluorescent light bulbs. Sixty percent of the hydrogen fluoride used in manufacturing is for processes to make refrigerants," the CDC said.  

Update (9:41 a.m.): Hydrogen fluoride detectors outside the area where the response never went off, a tweet from Y-12's account said later Thursday.

On-site monitoring found no detectable levels of the chemical outside of the enclosure, another tweet said.

The account said the enclosure's scrubber system is working properly to reduce levels of the chemical inside the enclosure. 

"There is no indication of a malevolent event," the Twitter account said. "All nuclear material is safe."

"Employees who had been evacuated from the area have been cleared to return to their work location, with the exception of the immediate vicinity of the incident." 

Another tweet confirmed the emergency is under control and site personnel have returned to normal operations.

Update (9:31 a.m.): There are no injuries related to the event at Y-12, the complex's Twitter account sent out later Thursday.

The City of Oak Ridge was not assisting in the response, Sarah Self from the city confirmed to 10News. 

Sensors found a possible release of hydrogen fluoride within a processing enclosure during normal operations, a tweet said.

Evacuees are being relocated to another building there, but there is no indication any hydrogen fluoride has been released from the processing enclosure, according to another tweet.

Hydrogen fluoride is "a chemical compound that contains fluorine. It can exist as a colorless gas or as a fuming liquid, or it can be dissolved in water," according to the CDC. 

When hydrogen fluoride is dissolved in water, it could be called hydrofluoric acid, the CDC said.

If swallowed, it could affect major internal organs and be fatal, the CDC said.

"As a gas, even at low levels, can irritate the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Breathing in hydrogen fluoride at high levels or in combination with skin contact can cause death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs."

"Even small splashes of high-concentration hydrogen fluoride products on the skin can be fatal. Skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may not cause immediate pain or visible skin damage(signs of exposure). Often, patients exposed to low concentrations of hydrogen fluoride on the skin do not show effects or experience pain immediately. And, severe pain at the exposure site may be the only symptom for several hours. Visible damage may not appear until 12 to 24 hours after the exposure."

It is used to "make refrigerants, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, high-octane gasoline, aluminum, plastics, electrical components, and fluorescent light bulbs. Sixty percent of the hydrogen fluoride used in manufacturing is for processes to make refrigerants," the CDC said.  

Original Story (9:20 a.m.): An incident at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge has required the complex's emergency response personnel to be on the scene Thursday morning, a news release from the complex said.

Precautionary protective actions have been initiated for Y-12 employees who are near the incident and not involved in the emergency response, the release said. 

The incident occurred at 7:52 a.m.

Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) officials are directing response efforts, according to the release. 

A media center has been set up on site.  

No other details were available as of 9:15 a.m.