Uranium hexafluoride releases at Honeywell Metropolis Works, May 2012. Part 2.

Part 1 in this series is here.

1. Background:The Honeywell Metropolis Works in Metropolis, Illinois is authorized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to convert 150 million pounds of raw yellowcake from uranium mining operations to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which is then shipped to the USEC uranium enrichment facility in Paducah, to produce nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants, and nuclear weapons production applications. This plant has a long series of UF6 releases and multiple environmental violations. Honeywell has engaged in union-busting tactics, and commenced a 13-month lockout of its union (United Steelworkers) in 2010-2011. They hired scabs to replace them, and the NRC granted it an unprecedented exemption to use poorly trained scabs in a nuclear facility to replace the locked-out union members. David Cote, Honeywell CEO, has a cozy relationship with President Obama, and Honeywell was the leading corporate contributor to the Democratic Party for the 2010 elections, even though he is a Republican. He is an outspoken supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ship oil from the environmentally destroyed tar sands region in Alberta, Canada, to Texas.

2. On May 10, 2012, Honeywell officials announced to the union members that they must clear the plant immediately. They privately said to the workers that this was due to “sabotage” of plant equipment. The NRC and the media reported that this was due to “equipment failure”. Most of the salaried employees stayed. NRC inspectors had been on hand at the plant since April.

3. May 12, it was reported on the union local Facebook page that private contractors from the Shaw Group had been called in. It was noted that Shaw gets paid twice as much as the laid-off union workers. Shaw Areva is the operator at the Savannah River site, at which the construction of a MOX plant was recently cancelled/put on hold, and which is to accept spent nuclear waste from Germany.

4. May 14, a UF6 release occurred at the plant. NRC inspectors did an on-site inspection.

5. May 18, a notice is published in the Federal Register of a change that Honeywell uses to measure radiation dosage for its workers, allowing up to 20 times more uranium exposure than previously.

6. May 21, NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko announced his resignation.

7. May 30, a much larger UF6 release occurred at the plant. The NRC later announced that it amounted to 21 pounds, but this was from a “review”, not a direct inspection.

8. May 31, reporter Mike Elk was physically restrained from asking Cote a question on Capitol Hill.

9. June 13, the increase in allowed uranium exposure officially took effect.

10. July 12, Honeywell announced that the plant will be shuttered indefinitely, as a response to Fukushima, to be upgraded as protection against earthquakes and tornadoes. It was reported that Shaw has no experience in such work, which should have been performed by union members.

11. January 2013, union workers began to be called back to work.

12. November 4, 2013, it was reported that the refrigerator in the control room at the Honeywell plant was contaminated with uranium.

13. March 7, 2014, Honeywell CEO David Cote was elected to the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

14. May 14, 2014, the Huffington Post reported that commissioner William Ostendorff of the NRC had invested in Honeywell stock during the lockout.

More to follow…

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