Strange Events in Gov’t WIPP Report: Emergency personnel called in when ‘reddish-brown’ vapors observed after ‘unplanned, excessive exothermic reaction’ — ‘Filters had an orange tint’ when changed hours after radiation release began…(Heads Up No. Texas!!)

Friday, April 25, 2014
By Paul Martin
April 25th, 2014

Radiological Release Event at WIPP, Department of Energy, Apr. 2014 (emphasis added):

At 0014, on Saturday, February 15, the [Central Monitoring Room Operator] attempted to notify the on-call Radiological Control Technician (RCT) but was unable to reach him. The effluent sample Station A, Skid A- 2 and Station D shutdown due to low air flow or clogged filter paper. […] Station A skid A-2 filters upstream of the HEPA filters in the Exhaust Filter Building, were changed out at 0637 by the [Radiological Control Manager]. It was noted during the change out that the filters had an orange tint. […]
On March 6, two ventilation system dampers that were known to have design leakage, and allowed a portion of the radioactive material to bypass the HEPA filters were sealed with a highdensity foaming material. […]
03/08/2014 — Unplanned, excessive exothermic reaction** occurred during foaming. Foaming was secured. Emergency response personnel called to the scene. […]
The Board had other concerns with the quality of […] responses related to a potential exothermic reaction due to a foaming process upset that could result in a fire and subsequent failure of contaminated HEPA filters in the U/G ventilation system due to the fire soot combined with the observed particulate loading on the Mod filters, and this event was not considered in response to Question 5 regarding creating the possibility of an accident of a different type than previously analyzed. Although the safety basis includes a fire involving the Waste Handling Building contaminated HEPA filters […] these hazard scenarios were not addressed as bounding or representative for a fire release from the U/G HEPA filters. An unplanned exothermic accident that could have led to a fire occurred on March 8, 2014, when “reddish-brown” vapors were observed coming from the open ports in the duct […]

** Exothermic Reaction: “Chemical reaction that releases energy in the form of light or heat”

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