Choosing the correct personal protective equipment when working in the nuclear industry

For effective protection against hazardous chemicals and liquids DuPont recommends a choice of coveralls

In the search to find a sustainable power source, nuclear power has proved popular and as of July 2013, 30 countries worldwide were operating 434 nuclear reactors. Indeed, the industry is set to expand with a further 71 new nuclear plants under construction in 14 countries.

While the nuclear industry will undoubtedly prove beneficial in generating electricity, the risks associated with handling nuclear substances and residual nuclear radiation must be taken into consideration.

Ionisation radiation exposure is the primary hazard when working with nuclear substances, however, residual contamination, through exposure to particulate dusts, can also pose a serious health risk. This exposure can occur, for example, when residual radioactive contaminated particles, such as dusts and silica, are released into the air through the vibrations from the nuclear plant.

Workers can also be exposed to contamination through chemical splash and liquid chemicals such as sulfuric acids and sodium hydroxide – all of which are an irritant and corrosive to skin tissue.

Workers involved in nuclear research and testing, site inspections, reprocessing and general maintenance are also at risk. Where it is unavoidable for a worker to be exposed to contaminants, it is necessary that contamination is minimised through the correct use of personal protective equipment.

Requirements of protection

Protective garments are a last line of defence and are designed to minimise the penetration of liquid chemicals and residual radioactive materials. These garments are intended for single use; designed to be worn in an affected area and then promptly removed and disposed of to avoid long-term exposure and the contamination of ‘safe’ areas. These garments should be tested according to EN 1073-2 for protective clothing against radioactive particulates. The test determines the inward leakage and the barrier efficiency of the garment when challenged with a fine salt solution of 0.6 microns.

For effective protection against hazardous chemicals and liquids, DuPont recommends a choice of coveralls. For dry, residual radioactive particle hazards, Tyvek Classic Plus with socks and thumb loops is recommended. Tested to the highest level of the EN 1073-2 standard, the Tyvek Classic Plus coverall offers wearers exceptional levels of protection. These coveralls are suitable for environments that require effective whole suit protection offered by a Type 4 suit. The over-taped seams and the option to seal the zipper area with a self-adhesive flap are innovative design features that ensure minimal dust penetration. Robust and breathable, these coveralls perfectly balance particulate protection with comfort.

For liquids that have been contaminated by radiation, the ergonomically designed DuPont Tychem C coverall will provide users with comfortable protection against biohazards, inorganic chemicals and hazardous liquids. While offering Type 3-B, 4, 5 and 6 barrier protection, the coveralls are also hooded for head to toe protection. If additional protection is required, DuPont offers accessories made from Tyvek and Tychem, including protective shoes and aprons.

DuPont coveralls are all ergonomically designed to ensure maximum user acceptance. By choosing DuPont coveralls, those working in the nuclear industry can be assured that they will remain comfortable and protected while they work.

For more information visit www.chemicalprotection.dupont.co.uk

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