HF alert puts pause in emergency drill

k27pictureA worker’s personal monitor for hydrogen fluoride went off inside the K-27 facility on Tuesday at a same time an emergency drill was being staged near the Oak Ridge site, putting a pause in some of the simulated proceedings while the real-life situation was addressed. K-27, pictured at right, is a former uranium-enrichment facility that’s being prepared for demolition at the Department of Energy site that’s now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park.

Mike Koentop, a spokesman for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Office, confirmed the situation but said it was determined fairly quickly that there was no hydrogen fluoride present in the area. Koentop said an industrial hygienist took air samples to check for HF. Also, six workers who were in the vicinity where the alert occurred were taken to an on-site medical facility for an evaluation, but Koentop said they were back to work in about 15 minutes.

Koentop, executive officer of the EM Office, said the procedures in the event of an alert are for workers to stop work and back up about 15 feet while an industrial hygienist takes air readings. The procedure also calls for the medical checks, he said.

“These monitors are really, really sensitive,” Koentop said, noting that they can be set off by hot conditions or being jostled or other conditions.

The incident occurred around 10:30 a.m. According to one report, the HF alert also may have directly impacted some aspects of the emergency exercise at the East Tennessee Technology Park, including plans for a bus to take some of the “victims” in the drill to a nearby hospital.

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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.