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Thread: Putting out a magnesium fire with water - GIF

  1. #1
    Jon
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    Supporting Member Frank S's Avatar
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    Probably not the same fire but a similar occurrence happened in the Kennedale / Mansfield Tx area sometime in the late 80s early 90s
    A machine shop/ foundry processing magnesium caught fire the FD sprayed it with water not knowing the type of the materials burning, the resulting explosion pretty much leveled the building
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    hmmmm...didn't we lean that in 7th grade science class-"went a little something like this: " magnesium burns hotter under water?"
    Some things still need warning labels, and always will, even with the fire department.
    And their claim to fame is they've never lost a foundation?

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    Supporting Member jdurand's Avatar
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    A little bit overexposed in the middle there.

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    C Tucker's Avatar
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    A co-worker emptied the chip pan of the engine lathe he was running one night when he was running to high rpm with too little feed. I happened to be about 50 feet away, but looking right at it when the magnesium chips all burned in about 3 seconds.

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    Supporting Member tonyfoale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C Tucker View Post
    A co-worker emptied the chip pan of the engine lathe he was running one night when he was running to high rpm with too little feed. I happened to be about 50 feet away, but looking right at it when the magnesium chips all burned in about 3 seconds.
    In the 1970s I had a business making magnesium motorcycle wheels. This was prior to general use of CNC and I had an hydraulic copy attachment to machine the rim profile. I was always telling my guys to use the waiting time during the copying operation to scrape out the swarf from the lathe bed. Some were lazy and we had a few mag fires due to swarf build up. Quite spectacular and so was my response to anyone who did that.

    Once I was finishing the rim of a used wheel by holding some abrasive paper on the rim. This produced a small dust cloud of mag particles and this ignited and took my thumb nail off. That hurt for a while.

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    Supporting Member DIYSwede's Avatar
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    In the early eighties, I had 2 years working for a sub-contractor to ASEA & ASEA-Atom on some really odd jobs.
    The latter firm's Nuclear Fuel plant had had a pretty bad accident, where a H & S rep died.
    His job was,(amongst other chores) once a week, to bring out all the buckets of Zircaloy swarf* far out in the back yard,
    where they've made a firebrick furnace to burn the stuff. Business as usual - had done that for years.


    Last time he made an assumption that the previous bucket's load was fully burned out.
    It wasn't, so as he poured the next bucket down, it ignited forcefully enough to burn & throw the guy 10 yards away.

    The big brass got anxious and investigated any other possible explosion/ fire sources within the entire building.
    The alloy is used for cladding of the fuel rod square tubes and hence cut, drilled and milled on site resulting in swarf.
    Enter yours truly, and armed with a biggie shop vac I found that the gaps in the covers for the cable trenches
    in the plant's shop were literal mine seams of Zircaloy swarf.
    Carefully vacuuming those clean with a DIY-ed anti-static nozzle and hose I got rid of +100 lbs of the stuff,
    even cracking the bricks in the furnace from thermal stress. Nice burns from a comfy distance, tho.
    Everybody at the upper echelons was calm and happy, until I said: -Shouldn't we also check the trenches under those concrete lids?

    The faces of the managers turned pale as I lifted the slab, uncovering the plant's biggie electrical mains and cables all glittering and shiny...
    After 15 years of operation, approximately 500 lbs of the stuff was taken out the following days...
    Imagine what would've happened down there with a hot enough spark... Some firecracker.

    They had another "interesting anomaly" a few years after I quit and went to the Uni, but that's quite another story.

    Cheers
    Johan

    * 95 % Zirconium, rest Sn, Nb, Fe etc
    Check out this small wad of the darned stuff at 0:49

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    Supporting Member Frank S's Avatar
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    "After 15 years of operation, approximately 500 lbs of the stuff was taken out the following days...
    Imagine what would've happened down there with a hot enough spark... Some firecracker."
    Fire cracker? more like a thermite bomb in waiting
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    Supporting Member DIYSwede's Avatar
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    The swarf mostly built up in small, nice ridges straight under the gaps between the covers,
    then there was a thin dust coat covering all over the cables in the 4' wide by 3' deep trench.
    Reason for the even coating, was that there was a longitudinal flow of air dispersing the finer dust.

    An ignition down there would probably have lead to a Zircaloy dust explosion,
    (that also might have torched the ridges 6 feet apart, or blasted/ sucked those into the blast wave),
    but certainly one heckuva flash and pressure wave along and out of the trench at both ends and thru the gaps.
    The velocity of that blast wave, and if it would leave enough oxygen behind for a sustained fire has yet to be determined.
    Sorta slitted "full-scale" recoilless rifle - "Would it really get trans-sonic?"
    Guess the 6 x 4', 8" thick reinforced concrete covers would've stayed put, tho.

    Risk assessment and consequence analysis wasn't very developed back then,
    (even 4 years after Three Mile Island, but still 3 years before Chernobyl) as one of their cleaners asked me:
    -"How would my film dosimeter badge protect me, if I get Uranium splashed (sic) in my face?"
    I mentioned that (amongst some other H & S "anomalies" during my 6 month stint) to their Safety dept,
    only to be transfered for "reasons of their staff's inconvenience and security", as my boss told me.

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    Supporting Member Frank S's Avatar
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    It sometimes makes me wonder how some of survived the laxity of safety protocols in some of the work environments some of us encountered through out our lives.
    many times while working as a call out portable welding contractor on oil rigs I would notice there might not even be a blow out preventer under the substructure in a known area where high pressure gas and or oil deposits were prevalent, or even worse faulty or even no poisonous gas detectors let alone automatic emergency shut down and warning systems.
    Once while adding a down hole system made by TOTCo to check the bore hole for vertical or angular directional drilling the drilling crew was tripping back in the hole once they completed their bit change and powered up the mud pump a pin hole leak had developed in the rotary swivel spraying out a 5000 PSI knife like spray of the drilling mud which struck the derrick hand still on the monkey board the spray very nearly severed his left arm. Only his quick thinking saved his arm and possibly his life but his action at the same time very nearly killed him. He grabbed the Geronimo bar with 1 hand without taking time to attach his tether line then jumped off the platform ridding the safety escape line to the ground a few hundred feet from the rig holding on by only 1 hand he could not control the decent brake and hit the end of the line quite hard. They wrapped and packed his arm in ice then rushed him to the hospital some 70 miles away in the tool pusher's pickup. His arm was saved but never completely useful
    Never try to tell me it can't be done
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