Contaminated Sea Containers at BC Ports
December 6, 2011
Over the past few months, the Canadian Border Services Agency at various ports in British Columbia has intercepted 19 sea containers with merchandise contaminated by radioactive nuclear substance. At no time was there a risk to the health, safety and security of the Canadian public or the environment.
The sea containers all originated from China, and contained a variety of metallic products. In all cases, CBSA performed the initial verification of the containers and merchandise and contacted the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for assistance as per established protocols.
The source of the contamination has been identified as cobalt-60, a substance commonly used in radiation therapy, food irradiation and other industrial applications. It appears as though a radioactive sealed source containing cobalt-60 was accidentally melted with large quantities of recycled metals at a factory possibly in China or in another Asian country.
The majority of the containers were returned to the originator in China once contamination was detected, though in some instances the importer was given the option of hiring a licensed Canadian company to dispose of the contaminated merchandise. All of the sea containers in question had been isolated at the ports, ensuring that none of the contaminated products were ever released into the Canadian market.
The CNSC regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment; and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The safe transport of radioactive nuclear substances is governed by CNSC regulations made pursuant to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
For more information, please contact:
Transport Licensing and Strategic Support Division
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
P.O. Box 1046, Station B
280 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5S9