Fairview Cove terminal from above the Rockingham rail yard.
At about 2200 hrs Thursday, the bottom "fell out" of a container carrying uranium hexafluoride canisters. The container dropped about 20 feet onto the deck of the Atlantic Companion and became wedged between some other containers.
Atlantic Companion from Memorial Drive
Cerescorp, operators of the terminal, instituted emergency procedures and halted all work. Halifax Fire + Emergency Services responded and tested workers and the work area. When no workers were found to be contaminated, they were sent home and the terminal was locked down. Cerescorp also halted work on the adjacent ship, London Express.
Emergency teams from New Brunswick (where there is an atomic reactor near Saint John) and from Ontario were also called in.
A small work area around the dropped canisters was sealed off and found to have higher than normal radiation levels, but the levels were well below danger levels according to the experts. The canisters were not ruptured, and there was no release of radioactive material.
Loaded rail cars were held in the terminal, and inbound cars were held in the Rockingham yard.
By 0800 Saturday March 15 workers were called back and work resumed. The dropped canisters still had to be recovered but once that was done, the Atlantic Companion could resume normal loading and unloading.
Because work on London Express was delayed, the next due ship, Dalian Express anchored in Bedford Basin, ready to move into the west berth when London Express sails this afternoon.
Dalian Express anchored in Bedford Basin.
The canisters, called type 30B, consist of a flask carrying the granular uranium hexaflouride, surrounded by concrete and encapsulated in a cylindrical steel shell. Four of the cylinders are secured in a container called a PCP3 platform or flat rack. It is similar to a standard container, but without a top or side walls. The end walls are hinged to fold flat to save space when empty.
These particular cylinders are en route from an enrichment facility in the UK to South Carolina for use in a nuclear power plant. They were to be trucked from Halifax by specialist carrier RSB Logistic of Saskatoon.
In October 2013 a driver from RSD Logistic affixes radiation warning placards to a container carrying radioactive material. This is the same type of container and cylinders involved in Thursday night's accident.
One might well ask why these cargoes cannot be landed in the US, closer to their destination. I suspect it is because the US does welcome such cargoes arriving by sea, but much prefers them arriving by land where they can be more closely monitored.
London Express sailed early in the afternoon (in heavy rain and fog) with Dalian Express taking its berth immediately. Atlantic Companion sailed at 16:30.
Atlantic Companion passing east of George's Island, seen from a high building in Halifax