No Leaks Detected after UF6 Containers Dropped at Canadian Port

Monitoring following an incident at a Halifax, Canada, port suggests that containers of uranium hexafluoride dropped by a crane Thursday are not leaking.

The bottom of a shipping container opened and four containers of UF6 fell to the ground. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission reported Friday that the fall did not result in injuries or significant radiation exposure among workers. Radiation was detected above background levels but did not pose a risk, according to a CNSC release.

The material was en route to South Carolina.  UF6 is manufactured from yellowcake and serves as the feedstock for the enrichment process required to make fuel for light water reactors.  It is a solid at room temperature. It is also radioactive, highly toxic and reacts violently with water, according to its material safety data sheet.

Workers at the port were sent home as a precautionary measure but were expected to return to work Saturday morning, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.  The local fire department and other responders determined that the containers were in-tact and cordoned off an area 50 feet around them.

The CBC reported the UF6 canisters were transported in the UX-30 Overpack designed by Areva subsidiary Columbiana High Tech. According to federal licensing documents, the overpack has a maximum gross weight of 8,270 pounds and is made from two stainless-steel shells filled with six inches of foam.

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