Fact or Fiction: Transportation of HEU - CNSC Online - Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Fact or Fiction: Transportation of HEU

Fact or Fiction

Table of Contents

Fact or Fiction

Question 1

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Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) is not much different from natural uranium.

Both Highly Enriched Uranium and natural uranium are composed of the isotopes U-238 and U-235. Highly Enriched Uranium, however, contains U-235 in a concentration over 20%, while natural uranium contains U-235 in a concentration less than 1%. Unlike U-238, U-235 is highly fissile. In concentrations over 4%, U-235 can start and sustain a nuclear chain reaction in a nuclear reactor.

Fact or Fiction

Question 2

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Highly Enriched Uranium is used in manufacturing medical isotopes for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

For many years, highly enriched uranium has been imported from the United States for the production of medical isotopes at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories, one of the world’s largest producers of medical isotopes.

Fact or Fiction

Question 3

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If struck with high force in some transport accident scenarios, Highly Enriched Uranium transport containers can explode.

Canadian regulations require that radioactive material packages be designed to prevent criticality, even under accident conditions.

Fact or Fiction

Question 4

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The US government has called for the return of all Highly Enriched Uranium from its international partners by 2018.

Since 1996, the US-led Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) has safely repatriated approximately 3,500 kilograms of HEU and plutonium from 22 countries. By meeting this commitment, Canada eliminates a nuclear liability for future generations of Canadians and contributes to global nuclear security. The returned material will be used in nuclear power plants to produce energy.

Fact or Fiction

Question 5

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Some of Canada’s inventory of solid Highly Enriched Uranium has already been repatriated to the United States.

Shipments of solid HEU have already been repatriated to the United States with no serious accidents.

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Question 6

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Used nuclear fuel cannot yet be transported safely.

The very robust transport packages required for used fuel transport are designed, tested and certified to retain their contents even under extreme accident conditions. Used fuel has been transported safely nationally and internationally for 50 years by road, rail, water and air without a single radiological incident. It is a highly regulated activity that needs to meet the stringent requirements of both Transport Canada and the CNSC regulations.

Fact or Fiction

Question 7

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The CNSC approves all shipments of radioactive material.

Most transport activities involving radioactive material do not need to be approved by the CNSC, but those who transport it must follow CNSC regulations. However, certain amounts and types of radioactive material being transported may require packages that are certified by the CNSC. High-risk nuclear substances require a detailed security plan approved by the CNSC, as well as a CNSC licence to be transported.

Fact or Fiction

Question 8

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Vehicles that carry radioactive material are not generally required to follow specific routes.

The only time that routes are specified is for cases where a transport security plan is required and those currently only apply to shipments of enriched uranium and plutonium (i.e. nuclear material) above certain quantities. The routes are reviewed and approved by the CNSC. Information related to the routes and security measures cannot be disclosed to the public.

Fact or Fiction

Question 9

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An environmental assessment is required before allowing the transport of used nuclear fuel.

Environmental impacts and mitigation measures will be considered under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act as part of the CNSC’s licence application review to ensure there is no unreasonable risk to the environment or human health and safety.

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Question 10

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Canada does not allow the transport of plutonium on Canadian roads.

The safe transport of nuclear substances like plutonium and highly enriched uranium requires additional safety measures defined by the CNSC regulations. This includes packages tested and certified to withstand extreme accident conditions, such as impacts, falls and prolonged fire exposure. It also requires a full transport security plan that details procedures for every credible threat and hazard.

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Question 11

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The security plans for the shipment of radioactive materials are available to the public.

The information contained in security plans is not disclosed to the public in order to further ensure the safety of the shipment. Disclosure is limited to persons who have a legitimate need to know, such as police forces.

Fact or Fiction: Transportation of HEU

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