December 12, 2018

Lingen: Clarification of the causes of the ANF laboratory fire continue

The investigations into the causes of the Advanced Nuclear Fuels GmbH (ANF) laboratory fire in Lingen on December 6, 2018 are not yet concluded. In a special session yesterday afternoon the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Lower Saxony informed the environmental committee of the state parliament of the probable causes and details.

This was the approach that had been agreed with the authorities and is fully supported by ANF. The primary aim was to ensure that the first disclosure of information during yesterday’s briefing to the environmental committee about the probable causes of the fire was carried out solely by the authorities. The Lower Saxony Ministry for Environment, Energy, Construction and Climate Protection (NMU) has sovereignty to determine the causes and the ANF will fully support the continuing investigations.

At ANF the safety of employees, population and environment takes utmost priority. The thorough and complete identification of the causes as well as the implementation of required, preventive measures is therefore of great importance to us.

The current situation is: An item of laboratory apparatus caught fire. The instrument was an evaporator. Such an evaporator serves to evaporate aqueous, non-flammable solutions, which are produced during laboratory operations. This is a common procedure in many industries for treating laboratories residues. The size of the evaporator is approximately 2 by 3 by 1 meter (HxWxD). A 40 by 40 cm part of the device had burnt by the time the emergency personnel arrived. Also at the time of the fire a small amount of uranium was present in the evaporator. There was no release of radioactive substances into the environment. This is confirmed by the measurements that were subsequently carried out. The laboratory concerned is located in the nuclear factory building, in a separate room from the nuclear production line.

According to our present knowledge the ANF assume that sodium hydroxide came into contact with an aluminum structural member. This creates hydrogen, which probably resulted in a deflagration which then set the plastic components of the device on fire. Adjacent rooms were also contaminated by smoke and soot. Furthermore, fighting the fire with portable fire extinguishers caused to serious, visible damage to the laboratory room. On completion of the investigations the NMU, as the responsible supervisory authority, will publish a report on the causes of the fire.

ANF in Lingen

Advanced Nuclear Fuels GmbH (ANF), based in Lingen, Germany, is a subsidiary of Framatome GmbH. ANF is part of the world's leading nuclear technology company Framatome SAS, Paris, a subsidiary of the EDF Group. ANF manufactures fuel assemblies, intermediate products and fuel assembly components for nuclear power plants on behalf of Framatome for the European and worldwide market to supply nuclear power plants with nuclear fuel.

With 309 employees, fuel assemblies for pressurized and boiling water reactors as well as special powder and tablet products are manufactured at the Lingen plant. Recently, the site has also received orders for the conversion and dismantling of fuel assemblies not yet in use, thus helping to keep shutdown German nuclear power plants free of nuclear fuel. Special competencies in the development and construction of manufacturing technologies are another cornerstone of the company and ensure high manufacturing quality and thus safety in nuclear power plants outside Germany as well. ANF offers initial and advanced training for experts in radiation protection and additional nuclear-specialist personnel.