Health and Safety Risks
UF6 poses potential health risks for three primary reasons:
- Uranium is radioactive and can therefore increase the likelihood of cancer in exposed individuals;
- Uranium is a heavy metal that can have toxic effects (primarily on the kidneys) if it enters the bloodstream through ingestion or inhalation;
- UF6 can react with moisture in the air to produce HF, a corrosive gas that can damage the lungs if inhaled.
Ingestion or inhalation of uranium or HF gas can only occur if a cylinder leaks. Cylinders are inspected regularly for leaks and other damage, and appropriate actions are taken if necessary.
Exposure to radiation in the vicinity of cylinders is the primary exposure mechanism; however, under the current management program, cylinder inspectors typically receive less than 10 percent of the allowable exposure level that has been established for workers.
In addition to the radiological and chemical health risks associated with depleted UF6 cylinders, there are also risks of industrial accidents and transportation-related accidents during handling, storage, or transport of depleted UF6.
Health and safety risks are evaluated for each depleted UF6 management alternative considered in the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.
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