A Review of Criticality Accidents [LA-13638]

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A workforce shift change was scheduled for 01:00, but workers for the next shift were not allowed into the facility, and all workers from the prior shift remained on duty. All recovery actions involving the equipment and solution in this glovebox were performed remotely from the shift supervisor’s room, approximately 30 m distant, until the system was put into a safely subcritical state. Fifteen minutes after the first excursion, unsuccessful attempts were made to remotely open a line and drain vessel 2.

It is not unreasonable to assume that an initial spike of at least 1017 fissions was followed by multiple excursions and, finally, by boiling for 15 to 20 minutes. The very large yield is a result of the large volume of the system and the relatively long duration, rather than of the violence of the excursion tank. Because of thick shielding, none of the personnel received significant prompt gamma or neutron doses. During evacuation of the building, airborne fission products (within the building) resulted in combined beta and gamma doses of 50 rem (one person), 32 rem (one person), and smaller amounts to 17 persons.

The precipitate was then weighed before loading into the dissolution vessels. When dissolving consecutive batches of precipitate, the operational procedure allowed for the recycling of solution with low uranium concentration from the collection vessels, as long as the total mass of uranium in the dissolution vessels did not exceed 400 g. The uranium concentration in the recycled solution was determined by analyzing samples from the collection vessels. This concentration was always reported as grams of uranium per liter (g U/ l ) and was also used for compliance with the criticality safety mass limit.

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