Alarms designed to detect a nuclear criticality accident at the Y-12 National Security Complex have been tested, and the systems functioned appropriately and as required, the plant said in November.
Y-12 has had a criticality accident alarm system since 1945. A criticality accident would occur if there were an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction. It could result in the release of radiation and significant exposures to nearby workers if the area were not immediately evacuated. It’s something that the plant takes steps to avoid. The alarms are designed to alert workers if there is an accident.
A nuclear criticality alarm at the 811-acre plant, which works on nuclear weapons components and stores highly enriched uranium, has been given credit for helping to save lives in a nuclear criticality accident in 1958. In that case, which was the first process criticality accident in the United States, Y-12 employees immediately evacuated when they heard the alarm.
A report published by Consolidated Nuclear Security, a federal contractor, said the basic design and electronic configuration of the older criticality alarm system installed in Y-12’s existing facilities, with the exception of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, date back to 1957. The legacy system has received many upgrades since installation, and detector stations have been removed and relocated as enriched uranium operations have evolved, said the report, titled “Qualification of Y-12 Legacy Criticality Accident Alarm System Detectors.” [Read more…]