"FEED MATERIALS PRODUCTION CENTER"
AT FERNALD OHIO
Why did locals think they made pet food?
sit out on the street...
The Feed Materials Production Center in Fernald,
Ohio, was a crucial link in the United States Weapons manufacturing system
from the 1950s until the end of the 1980s. The contamination of the
air, ground and water with radioactive materials, kept secret for decades,
only came to light in the 1980s. This is an annotated series of slides
which I used in lectures in the 1980s and early 1990s on the weapons facility,
its problems and dangers. You may view these slides by clicking on the link imbedded in the text descriptions below . Alternatively, here is a page of thumbnails linked to larger versions of the images for this page.
Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety
and Health (FRESH), a local citizens group concerned with the dangers resulting
from pollution at the plant, took their second tour of the "Feed Materials
Production Center" (FMPC) in May, 1988. I was asked to accompany them on
that tour to review any progress in cleaning up the site since touring
the site in Spring of 1986. The following pictures were taken during
the tour, and gamma radiation readings were taken regularly. Some
progress was noted in cleaning up the facility, however, with the rate
of uranium production dramatically reduced since 1986, one would expect
a facility barely in operation to be more orderly. The Westinghouse Corporation,
who was selected to correct conditions on the site is to be acknowledged
as making some improvements, but they have only scratched the surface to
remove the danger from Hamilton and Butler Counties in SW Ohio. Here is a transcript of an interview with David Fankhauser on his Fernald experience housed at the Ohio EPA.Questions
relating to these pictures should be addressed to:
Dr. David B. Fankhauser8. Cafeteria where tour started and ended. The air duct seen overhead had been found the previous
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
University of Cincinnati Clermont College
Batavia, OH 45103
9. Drums of radioactive
waste sit on concrete pad. Urgently requires shipment to approved
burial ground, rather than exposed for years to the weather as has been occurring for years. They
claim to have shipped off 23,000 drums in past two years, but 79,000 remain.
10. Most of the shipments to and from Fernald are via rail. The
drums on these skids have been
moved, but now what to do with the skids?
11. The famous K-65 wastes:
Radium containing wastes from the Manhattan Project. This
project produced the first atomic bomb in the history of mankind.
12. Radon is produced at a very high rate by these wastes.
They have a history of being the
highest source of Radon from the entire plant by far. It has been shown to drift off site towards
Ross, OH. The white pipes in the lower R are take off pipes to try to slow down the release of
Radon. In fact, the gas is merely held for a short time before release. The result is a minor
reduction in release.
13. These tanks are very similar to the K-65 tanks in both age
and construction. The walls of the
K-65 tanks show evidence of crumbling by virtue of the pattern of leakage of materials from the
14. An engineering study of the
domes of the K-65 silos concluded that they could collapse at
any moment. Such a collapse would release a cloud of radioactive poisons of serious proportions.
15. Environmental studies
around the site have confirmed that the contamination is widespread.
16. Many local residents are convinced that the name Feed
Materials Production Center,
combined with the Red and White checkerboard water tower were intended to make neighbors
think Purina when they looked at the secretive facility.
17. One of the chemical waste
pits, this one lined with plastic. Hazardous wastes continue to be
buried at Fernald to this date.
18. Most of the radioactive
wastes buried at Fernald originated elsewhere. They were shipped to
Fernald, supposedly for processing. But Fernald was shipping out only 10% of the wastes it was
receiving, making it a de facto Radwaste Dump, the third largest in the nation.
19. The sign says "CAUTION: ASBESTOS WASTE DISPOSAL SITE."
Not only are
radioactive wastes being disposed of here, but a variety of other hazardous wastes are being dumped
here as well.
20. The two silos to the L are
the K65 wastes, the right are apparently empty. The berms have
been piled up against the K-65 silos for two reasons. They shield to an extent the radiation.
(Gamma wastes it was receiving, making it a de facto Radwaste Dump. radiation is still 6x
elevated at the fence beyond the woods in the rear of the picture.) The berms also act to support
the walls which would otherwise collapse under the pressure from the wastes inside.
21. Large amounts of contaminated copper scrap sits exposed to the weather.
22. The black cylinders are reactors to reduce nitrates to nitrogen
gas. Nitrates of uranium are a
major form of uranium salt handled at the plant. Nitrates released into the environment lead to
acid rain and nitrate contamination of waters down wind.
23. Drums of unenriched
uranium materials sit outside of Plant 8. Hydrogen fluoride may be
found in the green tanks on the ground. HF is used to dissolve uranium, and is the most power
mineral acid. It is used to etch glass.)
24. The silo in which
thorium is stored. There are several sites of thorium storage around
Fernald Facility. Gamma radiation levels near the silo were hundreds of times above background.
25. The red barrels
appearing in this shot of Plant 8 contain enriched uranium, making
considerably more radioactive than the black barrels (see 23.)
26. The packaging site
for "green salt", uranium tetrafluoride, produced when uranium is dissolved
in HF (see 23). Note that the "green salt" is extremely dusty. From the bare arms on this black employee, it would appear that there has been little improvement is this high exposure site over the last two years.
27. The dangers of the packaging facility receive TV exposure.
28. Crucibles are being
prepared to receive Mg and UF4. Several workers were exposed
cleaning cylinders like these in August, '88.
29. The chute into which uranium tetrafluoride and Mg are poured
to be mixed and loaded into the
crucibles. This is a site with high potential for respiratory exposure to the green dust that flies up
30. Kilns where the mixture
of Mg and UF4 are heated to the point where the spontaneously
combust, leading to the reduction of the uranium to molten metal.
31. Round ingots of uranium
metal can be seen under the roof behind the plastic sheets. (Plastic
stops alpha particles, but not gamma, and not all betas.)
32. The tour is told that safety is important at the plant.
33. A large inventory of metallic uranium derbies sit outside in the weather at the corner of "Second and D Streets." Here is a large image of the same amazing picture...
34. Milling machine
used to machine uranium metal. Note that Westinghouse apparently
that the fumes to which workers had long been exposed were dangerous, installing the fume
control ducting. The freshly milled uranium is silver, but quickly begins to tarnish when exposed to oxygen, making these milled ingots appear bronzed.
35. Molten salt vat,
in which salt is heated to 1480 F at which temperature the salt becomes
molten. Uranium is cured at that temperature to alter its molecular structure. A worker was missing for months. Later, when the vat was emptied, they found his gold ring, belt buckle and keys.
36. In the machine shop,
a crane for transferring heavy uranium billets for machining on the machines
seen in the
37. Empty drums open on their sides, ready to be filled with green
salt, radioactive UF4.