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This mass limit was 400 g of plutonium. As can be seen in Table 5, the mass limit was exceeded on 2 December when the third batch of waste solution arrived at R0. Following the fourth transfer of solution on 3 December, vessel R0 contained a total of 682 g of plutonium. However, the shift production engineer deliberately changed the R0 vessel log to show only 400 g in the vessel. On 4 December the oxalate precipitate in vessel R0 was dissolved and transferred in the form of plutonium carbonate solution to an empty vessel, R2, in glovebox 10.

Even though the draining of the cadmium nitrate decreased reflection, it allowed the organic to assume a more reactive geometry as it reentered the hemispherical bottom of the vessel. The siphoning action was continued (in spite of the last excursion) until the vessel was drained. 14 kg of U(90), were removed from holding vessel 694. During the nearly 16 hours over which the accident took place, the plant operators and supervisors on shift at the beginning of the excursions remained at the facility to assist with recovery operations and to document the events.

The historical average plutonium content of the residues was about 1% by weight. The statistical fluctuation of this average was also based on these historical records. Most cans contained less than 50 g of plutonium in about 5,000 g of residue, but occasionally, as a result of operational deficiencies, the plutonium content was significantly in excess of 100 g. All cans, regardless of suspected plutonium content, were stored in the same glovebox awaiting recovery. The criticality mass limit took into account the statistical fluctuation of the fissile mass per dissolution batch; thus, the plutonium feed mass was calculated by multiplying the residue mass by 1%.

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