Last August (on the 22nd), driver Brian Hanson went to great lengths in an act of heroism to secure the uranium hexaflouride (a material which manufactures uranium fuel used by power plants for their reactors) that he and Alexis Hanson (who was sleeping at the time) were in the process of hauling through Ohio.
Prior to the accident, they had been pulling a UF6 trailer from an Ontario, Cameco facility to Kentucky.
Near Troy Ohio on I-75, Brian began to smell smoke and realized that one of the brakes overheated, starting a fire. He doused the fire with water, and called for a service truck – but the flames were not completely extinguished.
Hanson said it was then that, “I realized we were in big trouble so I disconnected the trailer.”
Brian worked quickly to disconnect the trailer as the flames grew larger and closer to the load – singeing the hair on his arms.
The brave driver then drove the burning tractor two miles to an exit ramp, and jumped out to safety with his wife (who in the meantime had been scrambling to collect their possessions and important documents from the truck) and two dogs. – All before emergency vehicles even had time to make it to the scene.
- Hanson: “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. I wanted to get the fire away from the uranium hexaflouride because it’s heat activated…It’s really nasty stuff, and they would have had to evacuate a huge neighborhood we were beside. So I got the truck disconnected, it was burning like crazy, fire blazing out the back, trying to get to a safe place to get off the highway and away from the load.”
According to Cameco, the structure containing the radioactive load of UF6 was specially designed to withstand extreme heat – and stayed completely safe at the time of the incident. The load was hauled the rest of the way to it’s destination by a different tractor after it was thoroughly inspected.
According to RSB Logistic, the load was only left alone for a few moments when the Hanson’s were dealing with the tractor fire, but was otherwise supervised at all times. Hanson stayed to watch over the load at a secure site through the night – until the other tractor arrived to pick up the load.
Since this occurrence, it has been realized that there are a few gray areas when it comes to the transportation of nuclear materials. Canadian nuclear material shipments officials have made a case that the event should have been reported to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Ohio’s emergency management department. However, there are currently no U.S. requirement to make a report of this nature necessary.
It’s beginning to come to light that not enough attention has been paid to the risk of hauling nuclear materials.