Chemical spill at Y-12; Fogbank production facility evacuated as part of emergency response

purificationExterior view of the Purification Facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. (Y-12 photo)

Federal spokesman Steven Wyatt confirmed that a chemical spill occurred this morning inside a building at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The building has been evacuated, but Wyatt could not immediately say how many people had been evacuated. He confirmed that the chemical involved was acetonitrile, a flammable and toxic solvent that can cause respiratory problems if breathed.

Wyatt said the building was the Purification Facility. He said the chemical had been contained in the “affected area.” All employees have been accounted for, with no injuries reported, he said.

The Purification Facility is known to be the facility where Fogbank — a classified substance used in some thermonuclear weapons — is produced. But Wyatt declined to say whether or not the spill was associated with that mission.

“While there are response personnel at the scene, there are no confirmed details of the event at this time,” the plant said in a media advisory.

The National Nuclear Security Administration and its Y-12 contractor, Consolidated Nuclear Security, are responding to the spill.

“Appropriate precautionary protective actions have been initiated for Y-12 employees who are not involved in the emergency response,” the Y-12 release said.

A plant spokeswoman two years ago confirmed that only about 10 people work in the Purification Facility.  “The actual operations don’t require a lot of people,” Ellen Boatner said.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.