The documented safety analysis for the Savannah River Site (SRS) evaluates the consequences of a postulated 1000 °C (1273 K) fire in a glovebox. The radiological dose consequences for a pressurized release of plutonium oxide powder during such a fire depend on the maximum pressure that is attained inside the oxide storage containers. To enable evaluation of the dose consequences, temperature and pressure transients have been calculated for exposure of a typical set of storage containers to the fire. The oxide storage configuration selected for analysis is can/bag/can, comprised of oxide powder inside an 8.38E−6 m3 stainless steel B vial inside 0.006 kg of polyethylene bagging inside a one-quart screw top utility can of the type commonly used to package solvents or rubber cements.

The analysis accounts for pressurization from gases generated by pyrolysis of the polyethylene bagging and evaporation of moisture adsorbed onto the oxide powder. Results were obtained for different can orientations and different surface fire exposures, with and without initial pressurization of the B vial by hydrogen from the radiolysis of moisture. Based on the results of hydrogen back pressure tests for plutonium oxide powders loaded with moisture, the initial gauge pressure from radiolytic hydrogen was set at a bounding value of 82 psig (5.65E5 Pa). The pressurization analysis credits venting to and from the B vial but does not credit venting or leakage from the can.

Calculated maximum gauge pressures inside the utility can range from 1.98E5 Pa for an upright can exposed to fire on only one side, to 7.78E5 Pa for an upright can engulfed by fire. Maximum gauge pressures inside the B vial vary from 1.36E5 to 1.43E6 Pa. Due to the low rate of venting from the B vial into the can gas space, the can pressure is nearly independent of the B vial pressure.

Calculated maximum pressures are compared to the utility can burst pressure. In lieu of an analytic structural analysis of the utility cans, burst pressures and leakage rates were measured using compressed nitrogen gas. Leakage of gas through the can lid thread and seams prevented the test apparatus from reaching the burst pressure. To achieve the burst pressure, it was necessary to seal the can lid threads and seams by brazing. The measured gauge burst pressure was 2.50E5 +/− 0.43E5 Pa. The measured burst pressures are lower than the calculated maximum pressure due to fire exposure, indicating that the utility cans could burst during exposure to a 1000 °C (1273 K) fire.

Leakage rates were measured for cans initially pressurized to a gauge pressure of 1.24E5 Pa. The measured leakage rates were found to be proportional to the gauge pressure inside the can, with a time constant for leakage of 0.424 +/− 0.010 reciprocal seconds. The leakage time constants follow a threshold Weibull distribution.

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