Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Wood River criticality accident, 1964

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 14 September 2005

Date: 24 July 1964

Location: Wood River, Rhode Island, USA

Type of event: criticality accident with uranium solution


The accident occurred at a facility which reprocessed for recovery highly enriched uranium in scrap material from fuel element production. A tank containing uranium (93% U-235) in sodium carbonate solution was being agitated by a stirrer. A worker, intending to add a bottle of trichloroethane to remove organics, erroneously added a bottle of uranium solution to the tank, producing a criticality excursion accompanied by a flash of light and the splashing of about 20% of the tank's contents (about 10 liters out of 40-50 liters, including the bottle contents) out of the tank. The worker fled to the site's emergency building. Two plant administrators returned to the building; one turned off the agitator, producing a lesser criticality excursion that was not recognized until their dosimeters were examined. The administrators incurred doses of 100 rads and 60 rads. The worker absorbed about 10,000 rads and died 49 hours after the accident.

Consequences: 1 fatality (10,000 rem), 1 injury.


© 2004, 2005 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 14 September 2005.
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