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Chemical Versus Radiological Hazards - doe-std-1128-98_ch10039
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DOE Standard Guide of Good Practices for Occupational Radiological Protection In Plutonium Facilities
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Figure 2.4 Hazards in Low-Exposure Plutonium Handling - doe-std-1128-98_ch10041


DOE-STD-1128-98
these substances is also provided. Table 2.9 is not meant to replace the
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) available from chemical
manufacturers; rather, it is intended to help readers recognize the toxicity
of these chemicals and identify any possible side effects from their use that
could jeopardize radiation safety or plutonium containment.
2.6.3
Hazards Created by Oxidation and Pyrophoricity
This section describes the oxidation and burning characteristics of
plutonium, summarizes the storage properties of the metal and oxides, and
presents recommendations for their storage conditions. Waste remediation
plans for TRU materials and the necessity for dealing with ton quantities of
plutonium metal from the retirement of weapons require the identifying of
long-term and intermediate-term waste forms with appropriate stability.
Economic considerations make clear the importance of generating few, if
any, new wastes in accomplishing this task.
2.6.3.1 Oxidation of Plutonium
The problems of oxidation of metallic plutonium were recognized
shortly after the discovery of plutonium, and extensive studies of
the low-temperature corrosion of plutonium and its alloys have
been performed. Oxidation can produce fine loose plutonium
oxide, which disperses easily in glovebox systems, complicating
housekeeping chores. If not controlled, loss of accountability and
increased radiation exposure to personnel is certain. The reactivity
of plutonium metal is discussed in Section 2.3.1. The tendency for
enhanced oxidation is promoted by the self-heating properties of
plutonium isotopes (discussed in Section 2.5.1). A kilogram of
239Pu can easily reach an equilibrium temperature of 80C in a
glove-box environment (Raynor and Sackman, 1967). Thermally
isolated 238Pu metal can easily melt from its own decay heat. The
heat generated by oxidation may be sufficient to ignite nearby
combustible materials. Metal turnings and scrap should be
reprocessed or converted to stable alternatives as soon as
practicable. Plutonium metal, its alloys, and its reactive
compounds need to be excluded from both oxygen and water
vapor, but especially the latter since it catalyzes and accelerates
oxidation.
2-26


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