A fire “involving uranium” broke out on Wednesday morning at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The fire, which broke out around 9:15 am, triggered an emergency response with all 200 staff members being evacuated from the site and all buildings next to the site being evacuated as well.

The Oak Ridge complex was one of the US military’s secret uranium and plutonium production sites during World War II, known at the time as the “Secret City.” This highly-secretive operation was called the ‘Manhattan Project’ and its purpose was to build an atomic bomb before the Germans did.

Y-12 National Security Complex

Building 9212, the building where the fire broke out, is a uranium processing building and currently serves “as one of the primary chemical processing and enriched uranium production facilities at Y-12.” The building, which was constructed in 1945, is set to be phased out and replaced by the end of 2025.

It was confirmed that the material involved in the fire was a metal compound of uranium and it began in a handling hood.

A spokesperson for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) reported on the facility’s fire, saying, “Emergency Services responded to the event. The site activated the Y-12 Emergency Response Organization and we’ve been in close contact with local and state officials.”

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The spokesperson also said, “There are no reports of injury or contamination.”

If necessary, employee health assessments will take place after the incident.

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Officials on the scene assured the public that they do not need to worry about any offsite impact.

“The situation is under control and is contained,” a spokesperson for Y-12 said.

An NNSA official reported that continuous air monitors in the area have not alerted any officials to any release of radioactivity.

Around 1 pm, it was reported that the rest of the complex was back to business as usual. They did not, however, confirm if the fire was out and were unable to provide a timeline for when Building 9212 would reopen.

Y-12 reported that congressional representatives were informed of the emergency and that they are “comfortable” with the emergency response that was carried out.

Y-12 officials plan to release the cause of the fire at a later date.

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