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Ignition Temperatures and Pyrophoricity of Plutonium, Its Alloys, and Its Compounds - doe-std-1128-98_ch10043
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DOE Standard Guide of Good Practices for Occupational Radiological Protection In Plutonium Facilities
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Storage and Containment - doe-std-1128-98_ch10045


DOE-STD-1128-98
The health physics aspects of an accidental plutonium fire can be
serious. A fire can burn through containment structures, resulting
in the dispersal of PuO2 over a wide area, with the potential for
inhalation exposure during the fire or during subsequent
decontamination efforts. The conditions under which a plutonium
fire can occur in a dry glovebox have been studied. With only 5%
oxygen in nitrogen, the metal will burn easily. At the 1% level,
however, a fire will not continue to burn unless heat is supplied
(Rhude, 1962). Turnings must be generated in a dry atmosphere
and should be converted to the oxide as soon as convenient,
preferably on the same day they are made. Some solvents and
organic compounds form flammable mixtures with plutonium. In
one incident, tetrachloroethane was inadvertently substituted for
another lathe coolant in a metal-turning operation. Chips of
plutonium aluminum alloys were ignited, resulting in the blowout
of a glove-box panel. In a separate event, burning plutonium chips
dropped into carbon tetrachloride resulted in an explosion (AEC,
1965).
2.6.3.3
Aerolization of Plutonium
The ignition of plutonium metal becomes a major hazard when
enough plutonium has burned to produce a significant amount of
dispersable material and a serious enough fire to damage the
pertinent containment structures. The particle size of PuO2 fired at
a low temperature varies from 3% at <1 m to 97% at 1-5 m
(Stakebake and Dringman, 1967). Sintered PuO2 has a particle size
<2 m. Haschke (1992) made an effort to define the maximum
value of the source term for plutonium aerosolization during a fuel
fire. He found the rate to be constant (0.2-g PuO2/cm2 of metal
surface per minute) above 500C. The mass distribution for
products of all metal gas distributions are approximately 0.07
mass% of the oxide particles having geometric diameters ≤10 m.
2-30


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