What are the risks from accidents involving depleted uranium hexafluoride?
Accidents are a concern because they could result in a release of UF6. Accidental release of UF6 from storage cylinders or during processing activities could result in injuries or fatalities. The most immediate hazard after a release would be from inhalation of hydrogen fluoride (HF), a highly corrosive gas formed when UF6 reacts with moisture in air. Exposure to HF could result in a range of health effects, from eye and respiratory irritation to death, depending on the exposure level.
Uranyl fluoride (UO2F2) is also formed from UF6 reacting with moisture in the air after an accidental release. Uranyl fluoride is a particulate which can be dispersed in air and inhaled. Once inhaled, uranyl fluoride is easily absorbed into the bloodstream because it is soluble. If large quantities are inhaled, kidney toxicity will result.
The risks from an accident depend on the severity and characteristics of the accident. The consequences would depend on how much UF6 was released and how many people were near or downwind of the site when the accident occurred. In addition, the presence of water or a fire affects accident consequences because either can lead to more rapid release and dispersal of the UF6.
(For more details on risks from accidents, see also Section 4.3.2 of the PEIS.)
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