Honeywell International confirmed that there was an uranium leak at their plant in Metropolis, Illinois on Sunday evening. The leak was caused by equipment failure. Although an investigation is ongoing and some witnesses claim to have seen white vapor escaping the plant, Honeywell said that there is no reason to believe that anyone was injured or put at risk from the incident.
Inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission began their investigation on Tuesday, and it is still far from completion according to commission spokesman Roger Hannah.
"At this point we're still in a fact-finding mode. We haven't come to any conclusions about whether processes weren't followed."The plant specializes in a particularly dangerous material. It is the only plant in the U.S. that converts uranium oxide into to uranium hexafluoride, also known as UF6, for nuclear power plants. Uranium hexafluoride is radioactive, and if released into the air, it is a toxic chemical.
Honeywell Spokesperson Peter Dalpe told local News 3 that there was nothing to fear.
"Plant personnel followed all emergency procedures and plant safety systems performed as designed. There were no injuries and no indication that any UF6 material left the site. The plant is continuing its investigation into the incident and working to determine how much material was released."Nevertheless, a local union representing workers in the uranium plant posted pictures of a white vapor over the building. The union, which is being locked out of the plant because of a contractual dispute, demanded an immediate explanation for the leak.
Honeywell gave a possible explanation for the white vapor, saying that water was used to contain the uranium leak.
"The water mitigation systems spray high volumes of water mist into the air and were the reason for the mist around the facility during the incident."Reuters is reporting that Union leader John Smith couldn't say that an incident like this wouldn't happen if the union was working in the uranium plant. Still, it couldn't have hurt.
"I definitely know that our members have a lot more experience than the people running the plant right now."After the damages from the leak are assessed, Honeywell might have to conclude that the price of the dispute has been too high.
The uranium leak couldn't come at a worse time for Americans, who are still struggling with fears of a nuclear-armed ISIS.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, ISIS took control of uranium that was being stored in Mosul University. It isn't clear if the material could be weaponized, but the ISIS acquisition led to a plea to the U.N. Secretary General to help thwart nuclear enabled terrorist groups.
[Image Credit: Kakadu National Park uranium mining Controlled Area]