UPDATE – March 26, 2014, 2:30 EDT
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has confirmed the containers of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) have been safely reloaded and can now resume transport to their final destination. Under the regulatory oversight of the CNSC, the licensee followed proper procedures and complied with the CNSC's Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations when securing the load and preparing it for transportation. The CNSC is satisfied of the licensee's response to this incident and is that all actions have been done in accordance with the CNSC licence and regulatory requirements.
There continues to be no risk to the health and safety of Canadians as a result of this event.
UPDATE – March 15, 2014, 6:00 pm EDT
Under the regulatory oversight of the CNSC's on-site inspector dispatched to the site since the event occurred, the CNSC inspector observed that the four canisters of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) were safely off-loaded from the ship today. The licensee has arranged with the terminal operator to store the canisters safely and securely until they are repackaged and transported to their final destination.
The response carried out by the licensee was completed in accordance to CNSC licence and regulatory requirements. At no time during this process was there a risk to health and safety of the workers or to the environment.
The terminal at the port has returned to regular business. The presence of the CNSC's on-site inspector is no longer required. The event is now considered closed. CNSC staff will provide a status report at the next public proceeding of the Commission, scheduled for March 27, 2014.
UPDATE – March 14, 2014, 8:30 pm EDT
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's (CNSC) on-site inspector has confirmed that all four canisters of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) are intact, and there has been no breach to any of the containers. Transport containers are designed to ensure that they can be handled safely and easily, secured properly, and are able to withstand serious accidents.
Canadians should be reassured that Canada only allows shipments of uranium material for peaceful purposes in accordance with its international non-proliferation commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear substances. This shipment is to be used by the Westinghouse fuel fabrication facility in South Carolina to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors and not for the fabrication of nuclear weapons.
Radiation levels measured on-site are extremely low. The transport package used for the shipment ensures that levels pose a very low risk to the health and safety of Canadians and the environment. In fact, standing 20 feet from the containers for a period of 10 consecutive hours would result in a dose comparable to taking a cross-Canada flight. Find out more about radiation dose levels in Canada.
The CNSC confirms that the licensee responded effectively in implementing their emergency response plan. The CNSC inspector will remain on site to provide regulatory oversight during the entire operation until the containers are reloaded to normal transport in accordance with CNSC requirements.
Ottawa - Friday, March 14, 2014, 2:30pm EDT
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been advised of an event that occurred at the port of Halifax during the evening of March 13th. The bottom of a large shipping container released as it was being transported, and dropped four canisters of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to the ground. UF6 is a compound used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors. Contrary to media reports, Canada allows shipments of uranium material only for peaceful applications. The shipment was en route to South Carolina and was dropped aboard the vessel “Atlantic Companion” as it was docked in the port of Halifax.
The licensee was in compliance with CNSC regulations, transporting the UF6 in a package certified by the CNSC and in accordance with both Canadian and international transport requirements. As required by CNSC regulations, the carrier transporting the nuclear substances had an emergency response plan that was put in place as a result of the event.
No injuries were reported. There has been no overexposure to radiation by workers or any members of the public as a result of this event. Radiation levels have been reported as above normal background levels, however they do not pose a risk to the workers or the public.
CNSC inspectors are in transit to the site. The CNSC continues to monitor the situation and will provide further information as it becomes available.
For additional information, read about the packaging and transport of nuclear substances.
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