'There was never a threat to the community' say officials after Y-12 chemical leak

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- All nuclear material is safe and site personnel are returning to normal operations after authorities with the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge said an incident occurred Thursday morning.

According to initial reports, the incident occurred at 7:52 a.m. Thursday morning after sensors indicated a potential release of hydrogen fluoride within a processing enclosure. No injuries were reported, and evacuees were relocated to another building at Y-12 until emergency personnel declared the area safe.

Officials with Y-12 gave the following statement.

"Appropriate precautionary protective actions have been initiated for Y-12 employees who are in the vicinity of the incident and who are not involved in the emergency response. At this time, there is no offsite impact to the public as a result of the incident."

According to the poison control center, hydrogen fluoride is a liquid or gas chemical that creates strong fumes and can cause severe burns on contact. Breathing in the chemical can cause heart and lung problems.

However, hydrogen fluoride is safe in small amounts. Traces are found in the air, and it is added to tap water for dental health.

Y-12 Officials hosted a press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday addressing the chemical leak. They said the leak was completely contained inside an enclosure. No employees were exposed to the chemical and no threat was posed to a community.

The area where the leak occurred was inside an enclosure that was described as being about the size of a walk-in closet. The purpose of the enclosure is to keep workers safe from danger in the event of a leak. Senors that measure chemicals at parts per million inside the enclosure alerted staff to the leak.

It is not clear exactly how much of the chemical was released.

Operations resumed as normal at the Y-12 plant just before 10 a.m.