More Light Shed on Port of Halifax Transport Incident

CNSC staff conclude that the shipping container was improperly secured when being lifted off the vessel; yet stringent regulatory requirements adequately protected the public and the environment.

March 28, 2014

At a public meeting held on March 27, CNSC staff provided further clarifications on the March 13, 2014, incident at the Port of Halifax.

Their investigation concluded that the shipping container loaded with cylinders containing uranium hexafluoride (UF6) was not properly secured to a crane.

CNSC expert André Régimbald observed that the regulatory system worked as expected.

"The incident presented no risk to the workers, the public and the environment, and there were no breaches of the packages" said Régimbald.

Contrary to media reports, the radiation emitted from the packages remained at normal levels, at all times, and presented no danger.

"Everyone involved in the response took the correct, immediate actions, as per the CNSC's stringent requirements for emergency response" commented Régimbald.

The nuclear material originated from the UK, and was being shipped to a fuel fabrication company in South Carolina, to produce fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

CNSC staff is completing their investigation, and will provide further details in writing to the Commission at a later date.

The cylinders were quickly stored in safe storage on March 15
Cylinders placed in new overpack on March 25

Chronology of events

March 13 (evening) – The CNSC is notified by Transport Canada's emergency centre (CANUTEC) that there has been an incident at the Port of Halifax, involving a shipment of UF6.

March 14 – The CNSC sends an inspector on site to oversee recovery operations. The inspector confirms that all packages are intact (with only minor external surface damage) and that there is no release of UF6 as a result of the incident

March 15 – The emergency response team removes the UF6 cylinders from the vessel, and port terminal operation resumes.

March 25 – The cylinders are safely transferred into new protective overpacks, ready to resume transportation to the United States.

Facts:

  • Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) is slightly enriched natural uranium, not weapons-grade material.
  • Under the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations (PTNSR), this type of shipment requires:
    • a licence to transport while in transit, issued by a CNSC Designated Officer
    • the use of a package that is certified by the CNSC Designated Officer as meeting the requirements specified in the PTNSR and the International Atomic Energy Agency Transport Regulations
    • Placards, labelling and proper shipping documentation

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