Module 101 Properties of Uranium
Precautions must be taken to prevent chips and
filings from igniting. One precaution is submersing
the chips and filings in water or a mineral oil.
Storage in water produces hydrogen gas due to a
chemical reaction. To prevent the hydrogen gas
from reaching an explosive concentration, and to
prevent a pressure buildup, containers must be
vented. Incidents have occurred where container lids
have been blown off by unexpected gas pressure
Once uranium starts to burn, it is extremely difficult
to extinguish. None of the typical extinguishing
methods, such as water, carbon dioxide, or halon, is
effective in fighting uranium fires. In fact, halon
may be explosive and produce toxic fumes if used
directly on the fire.
Normally, small fires may be put out by using MET-
L-X powder, which is a mixture of sodium chloride
(table salt) and potassium carbonate (baking
powder). When spread over the burning metal in
significant quantities, MET-L-X starves the fire of
Larger fires, such as with storage drums, are more
difficult to extinguish. Submersion in water will
eventually work once the metal cools down.
However, continuous water addition is necessary to
make up for losses due to boiling and evaporation.