Explosion Rocks Uranium Facility Run By Scab Workers
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September 7, 2010

An article in the Huffington Post tells of an explosion at a uranium processing facility in Metropolis, Illinois where contract disputes has led to a union lockout and the owners have used untrained scab labor.

The plant, owned by Honeywell, is the only one in the United States capable of converting uranium ore (U3O8) into Uranium Hexaflouride (UF6), a compound used in uranium enrichment. It had been shut down for two months, due to stalled contract negotiations, but had re-opened with replacement workers.

The following day, Sunday September 5, a loud explosion which shook the ground and could be heard a mile away rocked the plant. It was a hydrogen explosion and no radioactivity was released. Part of the plant's process involves breaking down hydrofluoric acid into hydrogen and fluoride and the explosion was caused by the hydrogen and the fluoride accidentally re-combining. Experienced workers say that this type of thing happens occasionally, but it had never created as large an explosion.

Union officials say that the inexperienced replacement workers were the cause of the explosion and blame management for trying to do things on the cheap. Honeywell spokesmen say that no one was hurt and little was damaged; there's no story here, move along.

The explosion, by the way, occurred the day before Labor Day. Funny, that.


Game and Story Use

  • For a more exciting plot, the explosion was the result of sabotage by union agents trying to discredit non-union working.
    • Or the Worldwide Hippie Conspiracy trying to discredit nuclear power. Those dirty freakin' hippies.
      • Or someone using an environmental pretext to attack energy security.
    • Or an act of terror by someone who doesn't understand the difference between "uranium" and "nuke".
      • Of course, given that uranium hexafluoride is an enrichment feedstock, this might serve as an upstream attack on a strategic material. Would have been a lot more effective during the Manhattan Project when the UF6 supply was much tighter and enrichment slower and less efficient.
    • Or a "dry run" for a future attempt.
  • If a plant is the only supplier of a resource of national importance, then Important People are going to want to make sure that Everything Runs Smoothly.
    • Perhaps the PC have been hired for just that purpose.
      • But if they discover that things aren't running smoothly, their employers just might want to keep it quiet.
      • And the PC's find themselves caught between Corporate Bureaucrats, Union Thugs, Foreign Agents and the Dirty Freakin' Hippies!
  • Another thing. Metropolis, Illinois happens to have the same name as the home town of a certain Man of Steel. Where was he when this explosion took place?
  • Consider that hydrofluoric acid is one of the more "fun" substances one is likely to find without being a professional chemical engineer. Consider also that this plant has inexperienced (and possibly disgruntled) workers handling the stuff.
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