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What are the potential health risks from manufacture of depleted uranium shielded casks?

If casks utilizing depleted uranium for shielding were manufactured, the uranium would most likely be in the form of either uranium oxide or uranium metal. Since the fluorine component would have been removed during conversion, the risk associated with storage and handling of the oxide or metal would be greatly decreased. Under normal operating conditions, there would be a small increase in cancer risk for workers due to exposure to external radiation from the uranium oxide or metal; however, good work practices would minimize the exposure and the risk.

Even under extreme accident conditions, such as if the manufacturing facility were damaged in an earthquake, the risk of immediate chemical injury to the general public and to workers from exposure to released uranium oxide or metal would be very small. The most serious accident for a manufacturing facility modeled in the PEIS was an earthquake damaging the facility, resulting in failure of several uranium metal furnaces. The probability of earthquakes depends on the location of the facility, and the probability of damage depends on the structural characteristics of the buildings. In the PEIS, the estimated frequency of this type of accident at a manufacturing facility was less than once in one million years. However, if such an extremely unlikely accident did occur, it was estimated that 35 pounds of uranium metal would be released, resulting in 1 member of the general public around the manufacturing facility experiencing adverse effects from chemical exposures (mostly mild and temporary effects, such as respiratory irritation or temporary decrease in kidney function), with no irreversible adverse effects or fatalities expected. In addition, irreversible or fatal effects among workers very near the accident scene would be possible. Increased cancer risk from radiation exposure from such an accident would be relatively small; the most exposed individual would have an increased lifetime cancer risk of about 1 x 10-4 (1 chance in 10,000).

(For more details on risks from manufacturing, see also Appendix H of the PEIS.)



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