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Radiological Safety Trainign for Uranium Facilities
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Radioactive Properties - doe-hdbk-1113-98_reaffirm_2005_040044


DOE-HDBK-1113-98
Module 101 Properties of Uranium
Lesson Plan
Instructor's Notes
4.
Gas
Provide a facility specific
Another form of uranium that is an inhalation hazard example of uranium in
is the volatile UF6, becoming a gas above 56C.
gaseous form.
However, most uranium daughters are not volatile,
and so can accumulate in storage cylinders. When
the volatile UF6 is extracted, the nonvolatile
daughters remain in the cylinder, resulting in the
buildup of residual radioactivity. However, in the
case of uranium-232 (232U), uranium-235 (235U), and
uranium-238 (238U), each of these uranium isotopes
has a radon daughter. Radon is a gas at all but very
low temperatures; therefore, if the radon escapes,
the subsequent daughters can accumulate in closed
or poorly ventilated areas.
In some situations, pressure from volatilized UF6 gas
can build up in small volumes such as a sealed
container or a pipe run between two valves. Line
breaks and leaks will cause a release of the UF6. As
the escaping UF6 gas cools, it becomes particulate,
which may have a suffocating effect on any nearby
workers.
Another reason for pressure buildup is alpha
particles emitted in radioactive decay eventually
becoming inert helium gas. The amount is only
significant for high specific activity forms of
uranium. For example, a sample of 99% uranium-
233 (233U) with 1% 232U creates approximately its
own volume of helium gas every year. Sealed
containers must include adequate gas space or be
fitted with pressure release valves. Once the
pressure is relieved, the low-pressure helium gas is
harmless.
7


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