Water discovery creates safety scare at K-25 site

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) -- Officials say water found in old uranium-processing equipment at the K-25 site created a nuclear safety scare earlier this month and temporarily halted work in part of the World War II-era facility.

About 800 people are working on decommissioning the gigantic building, which was used to enrich uranium for atomic bombs and nuclear reactor fuel.

The water was a concern because it can serve as a moderator for nuclear reactions, and the old process systems contain deposits of enriched uranium, which is capable of nuclear fission under certain circumstances.

Steve McCracken is DOE's environmental cleanup chief. He said work was suspended December 3rd and about 250 people working in the east wing of the building were temporarily assigned to other tasks while the situation was investigated.

He said resumption of work was authorized about a week later after a team of experts evaluated the nuclear criticality concerns.

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