Yes, it was the kitty litter
Mar27

Yes, it was the kitty litter

The radioactive material release last year at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository in New Mexico was due to mixing of nitrate salt residues, organic sorbent (Swheat Scoop cat litter), and neutralization agent (triethanolamine), according to a Department of Energy summary of the investigation into the incident: The [Technical Assessment Team] concluded that chemically incompatible contents in Drum 68660, in addition...

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Waste explosion at Texas Tech
Feb26

Waste explosion at Texas Tech

On Feb. 2, a glass waste bottle exploded in a Texas Tech University teaching laboratory, injuring three undergraduate students and a graduate teaching assistant. TTU has nowposted its investigation results online. In short, a nitric acid wash step was eliminated from the lab but the written instructions were not revised (I don’t know how this was communicated–with a verbal “skip step X”?). Nitric acid waste...

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Piranha solution explosions
Jan16

Piranha solution explosions

From the C&EN archives, but I believe still relevant today: April 23, 1990, page 2 SIR: We wish to report two violent explosions experienced with a sample of “piranha solution” used routinely in many laboratories to clean badly soiled glass frits and other surfaces. At Berkeley an explosion occurred in a bottle of this mixture that had been stored for several days. In this case, the solution was prepared by carefully...

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Lawsuits detail injuries from rainbow demonstration fire in New York school
Jan06

Lawsuits detail injuries from rainbow demonstration fire in New York school

Three lawsuits have now been filed by families of students injured a year ago when a New York high school teacher poured methanol from a gallon container during a “rainbow” flame test demonstration. New York Post stories about the lawsuits give some details of the students’ injuries: Alonzo Yanes suffered second- and third-degree burns on his body, head, face, neck, torso, and hands. “He’s horrifically scarred,...

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Solvent stills and fire repercussions
Dec16

Solvent stills and fire repercussions

I recently came across this 2002 letter regarding still safety and lab emergency preparation from William J. Evans of the University of California, Irvine. I thought it was worth sharing again for its lessons learned: As described in the article “Putting Safety First,” my laboratory suffered major losses on July 23, 2001, as a result of a fire originating with the malfunction of a solvent still (C&EN, May 20, page 43)....

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Typo may have led to radioactive material leak
Dec09

Typo may have led to radioactive material leak

On Feb. 14, radioactive material leaked from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository in New Mexico. The leak was traced to a drum containing a reactive mixture of nitrate salts, an acid neutralizer, and an organic, cellulose-based cat litter used as a sorbent. From an investigation by the Santa Fe New Mexican: In a damning report issued in October, the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General chided [Los...

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