Health Effects Associated with Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6)
Uranium hexafluoride and related compounds have radiological and chemical characteristics that pose potential health risks.
The characteristics of UF6 pose potential health risks, and the material is handled accordingly. Uranium is radioactive and decays into a series of other radioactive elements. Therefore, UF6 in storage emits low levels of radiation. The radiation levels measured on the outside surface of filled depleted UF6 storage cylinders are typically about 2 to 3 millirem per hour (mrem/h), decreasing to about 1 mrem/h at a distance of 1 ft (0.3 m).
In addition, if UF6 is released to the atmosphere, the uranium compounds and HF that are formed by reaction with moisture in the air can be chemically toxic. Uranium is a heavy metal that, in addition to being radioactive, can have toxic chemical effects (primarily on the kidneys) if it enters the bloodstream by means of ingestion or inhalation. HF is an extremely corrosive gas that can damage the lungs and cause death if inhaled at high enough concentrations.
The potential health risks associated with uranium compounds and HF are discussed in further detail in Chapter 4 of the PEIS.