Hex cylinders in port drop

18 March 2014

Port authorities are investigating how four cylinders containing enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) were dropped during unloading operations in Halifax at Canada's Nova Scotia.

Shortly before 10.00 pm on 13 March, the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Hazardous Materials service was called to the shipping terminal for a reported incident during unloading from a vessel. It was found that the cylinders had remained intact and radiation levels had remained normal throughout the incident.

Four standard 30B cylinders (around 75 cm in diameter, each holding around 2200 kg UF6) were being lifted inside a flat rack container, when one side of the container became detached from the crane, causing that end of the container to fall around six metres. None of the unloading staff were hurt and the cylinders remained inside the container and were undamaged. An investigation into the cause of the cargo mishandling is currently being carried out by port authority Ceres.

UF6 cylinders on truck Halifax (Truckfax - Mac Kackay) 460x202
RSB Logistics workers prepare a flat rack with four 30B cylinders for road transport last year
(Image: Truckfax - Mac Mackay)

The 30B cylinder
These can contain 2270 kilograms of low-enriched uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride. IAEA regulations include requirements for packages to meet the following test requirements: withstand a pressure test of at least 1.4 MPa; withstand a free drop test; withstand a thermal test at a temperature of 800 °C for 30 minutes.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said that the cylinders have now been off-loaded from the vessel, pending repackaging before transport to their final destination. The cylinders had been transported from Urenco's Capenhurst enrichment plant in the UK to the port of Liverpool, where they were loaded onto the Atlantic Companion, which is owned by New Jersey-based Atlantic Container Line.

Once the overpacks are replaced, the cylinders will continue their onwards journey to Westinghouse's Columbia fuel fabrication facility in South Carolina. The transport is being carried out by RSB Logistic, a subsidiary of German utility RWE.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Filed under: Nuclear fuel, Canada, Transport