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No offsite impact after uranium fire breaks out at Y-12, officials say

Knoxville WVLT-TV 2/24/2023 Camruinn Morgan-Rumsey
Y-12 National Security Complex © Provided by Knoxville WVLT-TV Y-12 National Security Complex
UpdateEmergency Response At Y-12

Officials give another update after crews respond to fire at uranium processing building 9212 at Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, February 22, 2023

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A fire broke out at Y-12 National Security Complex Wednesday, Kathryn King with Y-12 told WVLT News.

Y-21 has not released much information, but King was able to confirm that a fire broke out Wednesday morning in Building 9212. In an updated release, Y-12 said the fire started around 9:14 a.m. in a handling hood.

WVLT News was on scene and spoke to officials, who were able to provide some information on the incident. Those officials were quick to assure the public that the incident was contained to the Y-12 complex and the public does not need to worry about any impact offsite.


“I think if you live nearby you’d be very concerned,” one spokesperson for Y-12 told WVLT News. “The situation is under control and is contained.”

According to Y-12, employees in the building addressed the fire as trained then requested help from emergency personnel. That response is being directed by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC and the National Nuclear Security Administration, according to Y-12.

Additionally, officials said that around 200 employees who work in the building were evacuated, along with some employees in adjacent buildings.

Building 9212 is listed on the Department of Energy website as a uranium processing building, built in 1945. The building serves “as one of the primary chemical processing and enriched uranium production facilities at Y-12,” the website states. That building is set to be replaced by the end of 2025.

Y-12 confirmed that the material involved in the fire was a compound of uranium, the element workers in Building 9212 handle. The specific compound involved in the fire was in a metal form.

They also added that at this time there is no indications of injuries or contamination, but teams will be evaluating those employees. The first priority in a situation like this, according to Y-12, is making sure employees and Oak Ridge residents are safe. After that, responders prioritize environmental impacts.

Y-12 was not able to confirm whether or not the fire was out as officials said they are focusing on emergency response. However, they did say that congressional representatives were notified of the emergency as part of that response.

“I think they are comfortable with what we did today,” a Y-12 spokesperson said.

Going forward, Y-12 told WVLT News that they will focus on figuring out what happened and plan to release the cause of the fire at a later date. Additionally, officials were not able to give a timeline for when Building 9212 would be reopened.

Around 1 p.m., officials announced that the rest of the complex had returned to business as usual.

In a later update, Y-12 officials said the fire was contained to an area less than one square foot in area.

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