Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2013-2014
A truck started on fire on Aug. 22, on Interstate-75 near Troy, Ohio. The cargo consisted of 12,000 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride, a radioactive heavy metal that turns into hydrogen fluoride (UF6) — an extremely corrosive and caustic gas — if it comes into contact with water or water vapor. In spite of the hazards posed by the radioactive cargo, the trucking company, RSB Logistic, of Saskatoon, was more worried about media exposure than radiation. The UF6 was in route from Cameco in Port Hope, Ontario, to Kentucky. In spite of the potential for wide-spread contamination, no rules exist in the US or in Canada mandating that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission be informed of the incident.
Brian Hanson of Alberta, Canada, was driving the truck when the brakes ignited. Hanson doused the fire using an extinguisher but didn’t get it completely extinguished. He drove for two miles with reignited flames shooting out of the truck before exiting the highway. At that point, with half the truck on fire, Hanson disconnected the cab from the trailer knowing that the UF6 is heat activated. The fire burned the hair off of Hanson’s arms as he uncoupled the rig. An Ohio Traffic Crash Report said the right side tires, fenders, mud flaps, air hoses, sleeper compartment and passenger side of the cab were destroyed by the fire.
Hanson is quoted in the Toronto Star saying, “We’re so programmed and told about the danger of a load, and the media danger. We’re basically taught that the media’s like terrorism. We’re supposed to do everything we can to avoid media.”
Hanson and his wife had to find their own way home from Ohio while RSB Logistic sent a new cab and driver to complete the shipment to Kentucky.
Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission absolved itself of all responsibility since the truck started burning in the US. US regulators say it was Ohio’s responsibility. Neither Ohio’s Bureau of Radiation Protection or state emergency management agency had been informed of the truck fire.
The Toronto Star reported on Nov. 15 that one in seven trucks carrying radioactive materials are pulled off the road after inspection by the Ontario ministry of transportation. Faulty brakes, load security, flat tires, falsified logs, faulty air lines and lack of driver training are among the problems discovered during inspections.
— Toronto Star, Oct. 31 & Nov. 15; Nuclear Street News Team, Nov. 1, 2013