By Romeo St-Martin
Digital Media Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association
The recent incident at the port of Halifax is a real-life example of the high level of safety involved in the packaging and transport of nuclear substances in Canada and around the world.
On Thursday, four steel cylinders encased in concrete containing uranium hexafluoride fell about six metres from inside a container at the Fairview Container Terminal at the port, landing in a contained area of a ship.
URENCO has said the cylinders came from its enrichment facility in the United Kingdom. The shipment was bound for the U.S.
Fire and port officials evacuated the terminal and it remained closed until radiation experts confirmed there was no leak of radiation the following day.
Halifax Fire and Emergency Executive Fire Officer Phil McNulty was quoted in a Canadian Press story as saying the containers are extremely durable.
“The safety redundancies built in for the transportation of nuclear materials are unbelievable,” he said.
“If this wasn’t done properly, we wouldn’t be singing the song we’re singing now.”
Every day, Canadians working in nuclear ship thousands of packages of radioactive material, many of them across the world. In five decades, there has been no transportation incident with significant radiological damage to people or the environment.
According to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, packages requiring certification have to undergo stringent testing. Testing must simulate both normal and accident conditions of transport. The tests can include free-drop testing, puncture testing, thermal testing, and aircraft accident simulations.
The following video illustrates drop testing in Germany.
Testing methods in Canada are very similar, if not identical, to methods used by other international regulatory bodies.