Considerable effort has been expended on the development of coated and
corrosion-resistant tools. Some efforts have been marginally successful, but
in most cases throw-away tools are favored. Electropolishing of
contaminated metal tools and equipment has been shown to be a good
method of decontamination and allows for their reuse in some cases or
disposal as non-contaminated waste. Where possible, all tools with sharp
edges or points (e.g., screwdrivers, ice picks, scissors) should be kept out of
Management should constantly demand good housekeeping. Mandatory,
routine clean-up periods are becoming more common due to the increasing
cost of storing and disposing of contaminated materials. Better housekeeping
is required due to real-time, computerized accountability for nuclear
materials. It has been demonstrated that kilogram quantities of plutonium
oxide dust can accumulate in glove boxes unless they are routinely cleaned.
Much of the exposure to workers originates from layers of plutonium oxide
dust on the surface of gloves and the internal surfaces of glove boxes. In
processes where plutonium oxide powder is handled, the glove boxes should
be cleaned weekly to reduce the accumulation of dust layers and to reduce
worker exposure. Although difficult to achieve and maintain, good
housekeeping is equally essential during decommissioning of plutonium
The subject of vacuuming within a glove box is somewhat complex.
Experience has shown vacuuming to be the most effective and quickest way
to clean a controlled-atmosphere (dry) glove box. It is not particularly
effective for high-humidity or wet-process glove boxes, particularly those
that involve acids. After acids have been used in a glove box, washing and
wiping is the preferred method of cleaning the etched surfaces.
Vacuuming is particularly effective in dry-atmosphere and inerted enclosures
where the levels of radioactive dust can quickly increase personnel exposure.
In many cases, vacuuming reduces the exposure level more than a wipe down
with a damp cloth, and it can be done more quickly and with less waste
material generated. Two factors weigh against vacuuming: possible safety
hazards from electrical sparks, and the occasional difficulty of operating in
inert atmospheres (although the last item need not be of importance).
However, in dry glove boxes with dusty operations using high-exposure
plutonium, personnel exposure control is a problem and vacuuming is a
quick and effective method of keeping the dust and exposure rates under
control and should be considered.
Note: The use of vacuum cleaners may require review by Facility Criticality
Safety personnel because vacuum cleaners are likely to concentrate