Truck Driver Tells of Fire While Hauling Uranium Hexafluoride

A truck driver whose semi caught on fire went to heroic lengths last summer to ensure the safety of the uranium hexafluoride he was hauling through Ohio.

His story, verified by the Toronto Star, came to light during recent hearings on a proposed low- and intermediate-level waste repository in Kincardine, Canada. On Aug. 22, Brian and Alexis Hanson were pulling a special UF6 trailer to Kentucky from a Cameco facility in Ontario. On I-75 near Troy, Ohio, they stopped when one of the brakes overheated. It started a fire, the Star reported, and Brian Hanson disconnected the trailer as the flames grew hot enough to singe the hair on his arms. He then drove two miles to an exit ramp in the burning tractor, stopped and jumped out with his wife and their two dogs. Emergency vehicles were close behind.

Opponents of Canadian nuclear material shipments used the incident to make the case that such an event should have been reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and/or Ohio's emergency management department. Under U.S. rules, no such reporting was necessary.

In a statement to the Star, Cameco emphasized that the structure containing the UF6 was engineered to withstand extreme temperatures and remained safe. It continued to its destination with a different tractor after an inspection, and the trucking company said the load was only unattended during the brief span when the Hansons were dealing with the fire.

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