No offsite impact after fire breaks out at uranium processing facility in Tennessee

Crews respond to fire at uranium processing building at Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 10:00 AM MST
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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT/Gray News) - A fire broke out at Y-12 National Security Complex on Wednesday, Kathryn King with Y-12 told WVLT.

The facility hasn’t released much information, but King was able to confirm that a fire broke out Wednesday morning in Building 9212. In an updated release, Y-12 said the fire started around 9:14 a.m. in a chemical handling hood.

Officials were quick to assure the public that the incident was contained to the Y-12 complex, and the public does not need to worry about any impact offsite.

“I think if you live nearby you’d be very concerned,” one spokesperson for Y-12 said. “The situation is under control and is contained.”

According to Y-12, employees in the building addressed the fire as trained then requested help from emergency personnel. That response is being directed by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC and the National Nuclear Security Administration, according to Y-12.

Additionally, officials said that around 200 employees who work in the building were evacuated, along with some employees in adjacent buildings.

Building 9212 is listed on the Department of Energy website as a uranium processing building, built in 1945. The building serves “as one of the primary chemical processing and enriched uranium production facilities at Y-12,” the website states. It is set to be replaced by the end of 2025.

Y-12 confirmed that the material involved in the fire was a compound of uranium, the element workers in Building 9212 handle. Those compounds can come in metallic forms or solution forms, officials said.

They also added that at this time there is no indications of injuries, but teams will be evaluating those employees. The first priority in a situation like this, according to Y-12, is making sure employees and Oak Ridge residents are safe. After that, responders prioritize environmental impacts.

Y-12 was not able to confirm whether or not the fire was out as of 11:40 a.m. Eastern.