22 metric tonnes of titanium on fire near radioactive waste treatment plant
A container with 22 metric tonnes of titanium started burning at a radioactive waste smelter outside Nyköping, Sweden ,on Thursday evening of last week. The fire spread to the building and was not under control on Friday morning.
"The fire is tall, wide and deep and spreading on different levels. It is quite difficult for us, says rescue leader Henrik Dewoon-Thorén.
The call came in through an automatic alarm at 18.03. Inside a building measuring 80x60 meters and 10 meters tall, a large titanium tank had caught fire.
"There are lots of small titanium pipes in a large chunk," says Henrik Dewoon-Thorén, rescue manager at the Sörmland Coast rescue service.
Used massive amounts of sand and powder to deal with the extreme radiant heat
The titanium could not be extinguished with water and gave off very strong radiant heat. During the night it was extinguished using powder and sand.
"We had to bury it in order to suffocate it. We needed huge quantities, the titanium weighs 22 tons and it is still warm even though it does not burn anymore", says Henrik Dewoon-Thorén.
The fire spread in the building and was not under control at 5 am on Friday morning.
"It burned between the roof and the insulation. We bent, pryed and broke it open try to access the fire, but it was cumbersome. "
The operation was extra risky because of a tank of oxygen located next to the burning building.
"It was a threat to us. We cooled it with water and tried to keep it in check," said Henrik Dewoon-Thorén.
At most, 24 firefighters participated in the extinguishing work. On Friday morning, 18 were still in place.
Low level radioactivity
The plant at Studsvik is operated by the company Cyclife Sweden and is used to handle radioactive waste from nuclear power plants,. According to the company, the metals are low grade radioactive.
"There is no increased risk to people or the environment", says Henrik Modeer, CEO of Cyclife Sweden.
The smoke may cause discomfort, but during the night, according to the rescue service, it fortunately blew out towards the ocean.
The smelter's personnel were evacuated in connection with the fire. There is no information about any personal injuries.
"Radiation protection technicians have been out measuring and have not found any elevated levels of radioactivity, either on surfaces, in the air or on our staff", says Henrik Dewoon-Thorén.