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Miscellaneous Radiolytic Reactions - doe-std-1128-98_ch10038
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DOE Standard Guide of Good Practices for Occupational Radiological Protection In Plutonium Facilities
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Hazards Created by Oxidation and Pyrophoricity - doe-std-1128-98_ch10040


DOE-STD-1128-98
plutonium facility is probably the most serious threat because the consequences of a
fire could lead to loss of containment and subsequent dispersement of highly mobile
plutonium particulates. In addition, fighting the fire with water to maintain
containment could create the potential for a criticality accident and/or loss of
containment in the immediate vicinity.
The day-to-day hazards for personnel in plutonium facilities involve exposure to
gamma rays, X-rays, and neutrons, as well as possible accumulation of plutonium in
the body. These hazards are described in more detail in Section 3.0, "Radiation
Protection," and Section 7.0, "Nuclear Criticality Safety." The amount of plutonium
needed to present potential hazards to personnel in plutonium-handling facilities is
summarized in Figure 2.4. Hazards related to interim and long term storage of
plutonium will be found in Section 2.7, "Storage and Containment."
2.6.1
Chemical Versus Radiological Hazards
The radiological toxicity of reactor-produced plutonium far exceeds the
chemical toxicity of this heavy element. Furthermore, its low solubility in
near-neutral or basic solutions reduces the uptake through ingestion by a
factor >1000 for any plutonium compounds except certain complexes, such
as the citrate or ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) complex. (Refer
to Sections 2.3, "Radiobiological Properties," and 6.0, "External Dose
Control"). Tipton (1960) summarizes the differences in chemical hazards
between plutonium and uranium: "In contrast to uranium, the chemical
toxicity of plutonium is insignificant in comparison to the hazard arising
from its natural radioactivity." Moreover, "the toxicity of plutonium and
other transuranic elements," according to Voelz et al. (1985), "has only
been studied in animals since acute toxicity has never been observed in
man for these elements and epidemiologic studies have not produced
positive results." However, recent evidence suggests that plutonium can
catalyze reactions including oxidative stress in the absence of significant
radioactive decay. These data presented by Claycamp and Luo (1994)
suggest that plutonium complexes might contribute to long-term oxidative
stress related to tumor promotion.
2.6.2
Associated Chemical Hazards
The main chemical hazard of plutonium is its vulnerability to oxidation and
the pyrophoricity of some of its alloys and compounds (see Section 2.6.3).
The processing of plutonium, including separation from irradiated uranium,
purification, conversion, waste disposal, environmental restoration, and
D&D, necessarily requires the use of chemicals and reagents with varying
degrees of toxicity and hazardous properties. A partial list of chemicals that
are either used or proposed for use at DOE plutonium facilities is provided
in Table 2.9. An abbreviated evaluation of the potential hazards of
2-25


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