No health risk after truck carrying uranium powder rolled over Sask. highway: officials
The province of Saskatchewan is seen in this map of Canada.
Jennifer Graham , The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 12, 2016 12:10AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 12, 2016 4:53PM EST
SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. -- Cameco and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission say there is no risk to the public or the environment after a truck carrying uranium powder rolled in southwestern Saskatchewan and caused a small spill.
The flatbed truck was hauling a shipping container with 63 drums of yellowcake when it rolled Monday on Highway 4, about 10 kilometres north of Swift Current.
The uranium was produced by a company in Australia and was en route to Cameco's refinery in Blind River, Ont.
"There was a small amount of uranium concentrate at one spot on the outside of the container," said Cameco spokesman Gord Struthers.
"There was no sign of uranium concentrate on the ground, but they're still doing whatever scanning they can to confirm that that's the case. The process is to safely secure the container within another container, load it onto a trailer and take it to a licensed facility. That would be one of our mills at Key Lake or Rabbit Lake (in Saskatchewan) where they have facilities to safely unpack it and repackage it and prepare it to continue on its way to Blind River."
Cameco's operation in Blind River is the world's largest and Canada's only uranium refinery. Drums of uranium ore concentrates are shipped there from mines around the world, including those in Canada, Australia and the United States, and refined to uranium trioxide (UO3), a purer form of uranium.
The uranium concentrate in the rollover was described as "very raw."
Cameco spokesman Rob Gereghty says it had only gone through one step of processing and would have to go through several more to become a fuel source.
"It's very docile as product," he said. "It sort of has the consistency of ... dense sand, so when it falls or goes to the ground, it doesn't really create a lot of dust. It just kind of sits there and that's one of the things that makes it very easy to clean up.
"It's mildly radioactive so it can be scanned, but also that's how we know we can clean it up quite easily."
Any risk would come from inhaling or ingesting it, but people would have to be "very, very close" to have that happen, Gereghty said. Cleanup crews use protective equipment.
Gereghty said a typical drum would weigh about 400 kilograms.
The RCMP notified residents within a 1.6-kilometre radius of the rollover, but deemed an evacuation unnecessary because there are no homes downwind of the accident.
Cameco notified the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the commission said in an email that inspectors were also sent out. The commission has regulations related to the shipment of nuclear substances.
Officials with CANUTEC, Transport Canada's 24-hour emergency response centre, were working with first responders at the scene. Transport Canada said radiation experts and environmental specialists remained on site.
"Transport Canada continues to monitor the accident. At this time, we can't speculate as to the cause," the agency said in an email to The Canadian Press.