Ten Hurt in Tennessee Nuclear-Weapons Plant Blast, UPI Says

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Ten workers were injured in a chemical explosion at a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear-weapons plant in Tennessee, that's operated by Lockheed Martin Corp., United Press International said. The explosion apparently occurred after a volatile mixture, used as a cooling agent in the casting of nuclear warheads, spilled into the bottom of a furnace, officials said. Workers were exposed to limited amounts of radioactive contamination because of a depleted level of uranium, although about 50 people were evacuated, UPI said.

This month, Lockheed Martin, the No. 1 U.S. defense contractor, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. and Serco Group Plc won a 10-year contract worth about 2.2 billion pounds (US$3.5 billion) to operate the U.K.'s two nuclear-storage sites.

(UPI 12/8)

For the Web site of UPI, type NUPI .

Dec/08/1999 22:52

10 Hurt in Tenn. Cleaning Accident

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) - A chemical explosion at a nuclear weapons plant injured 10 workers - including one seriously - who were cleaning a welding area that had been shuttered since 1993.

The Energy Department was investigating the Wednesday morning explosion at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.

The building where the explosion occurred houses a portion of the plant's enriched uranium operation, which was shut down for five days in November because of safety problems. But the explosion was in a different section of the building and no nuclear materials were affected, officials said.

Three workers were hospitalized for burns or smoke inhalation. One man suffered second-degree burns over his face and chest. The others were treated and released.

The workers were removing an old crucible used in casting nuclear weapons parts. The explosion occurred when they were attempting to mop up a sodium hydroxide alloy that had spilled.

The alloy might have reacted with moisture, but the exact cause of the explosion was unclear, said David Page, a spokesman for the Energy Department.

Y-12, created as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project in World War II to build the first atomic bomb, today makes warhead components for the MX missile system and is the primary uranium storage site for the nation's nuclear arsenal.

The entire 5,300-employee plant was shuttered in 1994 for safety deficiencies. The Energy Department and managing contractor Lockheed Martin have been slowly restarting the plant, section by section.

AP-NY-12-09-99 0625EDT

Tennessee weapons plant shut after accident

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec 9 (Reuters) - Three workers were being treated at hospitals for burns on Thursday following a chemical accident at a U.S. government nuclear weapons facility, officials said.

No nuclear material was involved in Wednesday's accident and there was no danger to anyone outside the plant, according to Bill Wilburn, spokesman for the Department of Energy facility.

In all seven workers were injured when two chemical compounds accidentally mixed during a cleaning process, he said. All were treated and released except for three who were in stable condition at hospitals in Oak Ridge and Chattanooga, Tenn.

About 50 people normally work in the building where the accident happened, part of a complex where nuclear weapons are manufactured. Wilburn said the building has been closed while investigators tried to determine the accident's cause.

The plant is not part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory which is located elsewhere in Oak Ridge.

19:40 12-09-99