Honeywell resolves Federal Investigation into uranium storage contravention

21 March 2011

US technology giant Honeywell announced March 11 that it has resolved a US government investigation into permitting and storage issues at its Metropolis facility in Illinois which converts uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride.

As part of a plea agreement with the Department of Justice, Honeywell will pay a total of $12 million in fines and supplemental environmental projects to resolve the matter, which involved the storage of a regulated material without a proper permit. The company points out that it reported the incident in which no one was injured and it says there was no environmental impact. The company separately settled a parallel civil investigation with the State of Illinois and paid a fine of $690,000.

Honeywell self-reported the permitting issue to the appropriate regulatory agency in 2006, and has since acquired the proper permit and constructed a new storage facility. The company has begun reprocessing the material and expects to have the work completed by 2013, three years ahead of the government's deadline. The materials are KOH (potassium hydroxide) muds, which are generated by the facility's air emissions control systems.

"We have taken all the necessary steps to remedy the situation," said Larry Smith, plant manager of Honeywell's Metropolis facility. "Since 2006, the company has invested more than $10 million on projects that directly support health, safety, and the environment in Metropolis, and performance in these areas has improved significantly. In the second half of 2010 alone, there were no lost-work time injuries, and OSHA-recordable injuries fell by more than 60 percent. During the past four months, cumulative, year-over-year production has risen by more than 60 percent.

"Additionally, our oversight record shows that we have been operating in a safe and environmentally sound manner," Smith said.

The Metropolis facility converts uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride which is used to produce enriched uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants.

FilesReactor-by-reactor, system-by-system summary from JAIF on 22 March

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