Transportation of Radioactive Materials
Yellowcake transportation is an integral part of all uranium projects. Strateco does not yet transport yellowcake. However, once the uranium production phase begins, Strateco will be required to regularly transport yellowcake to a refinery, possibly in Ontario, or to the Port of Montreal.
Strateco is taking all the measures necessary to ensure that Canadian requirements regarding the transportation of dangerous goods will be respected when the time comes to transport yellowcake. Strateco also intends to reassure and inform local communities on all aspects of the transportation cycle.
TRANSPORTATION OF DANGEROUS GOODS
The transportation of dangerous goods is a current practice in Canada, like everywhere else in the world. According to Transport Canada, about 200 million tonnes of dangerous goods are transported every year in the country, with more than half by road. This represents about 30 million shipments of dangerous goods per year in Canada alone. Each dangerous good falls within one of nine separate classes, as shown in the following table:
Classification of Dangerous Goods
|No.||Class of Dangerous Goods||Examples|
|1||Explosives||Mine blasting explosives, fireworks|
|2||Compressed or liquefied gases||Oxygen, propane, nitrogen|
|3||Flammable liquids||Gas, diesel fuel|
|4.1||Flammable solids||Sulphur, phosphorous|
|4.2||Substances liable to spontaneous combustion||Activated carbon|
|5.1||Oxidizing substances||Ammonium nitrate|
|5.2||Organic peroxides||Dibenzoyl peroxide|
|6.1||Toxic substances||Chlorine, ammonium|
|6.2||Infectious substances||Hospital waste|
|9||Miscellaneous dangerous products and substances||BPC|
A substance is determined to be dangerous based on the risks related to its flammable nature, the instability of its chemical composition, its toxicity, its corrosive nature, its pressure, its temperature or its radioactivity. More than 3,000 substances are considered as dangerous goods, and these are used in almost all industries. Hydrogen chloride, ammonium and chlorine are the main dangerous goods used in the mining and metallurgy industry.
Yellowcake is the end product of uranium mining. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has identified yellowcake as a Group 1 low specific activity material. In other words, yellowcake is a radioactive substance with a very low level of radioactivity. Consequently, handling yellowcake involves very little risk. It is nevertheless a substance that is classified as a dangerous good, and its transportation is therefore regulated and monitored by various Canadian authorities.
In Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Transport Canada develop and apply the regulations governing the transport of radioactive substances. These regulations are based on the regulations published by the IAEA in the Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material, which sets the standards for the international community.
To transport yellowcake by road in Canada, Strateco will have to comply with the Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations and the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations. These contain all the regulations issued by the government of Canada to ensure that dangerous goods are transported in such a way as to ensure the safety of people, goods and the environment.
Canadian Regulations for the Transportation of Radioactive Material
The guidelines contained in the two regulations mentioned above cover all aspects that, combined, ensure a safe and secure transportation. All these aspects must be taken into consideration when transporting yellowcake:
All shipments of radioactive materials, without exception, must be accompanied by essential information. For yellowcake transportation, Strateco must therefore prepare very precise documentation to be given to the carrier and kept in a predetermined location. For instance, the shipping document must contain, among other things, the description of each dangerous good, the quantity being transported, the contact information of the persons to be contacted in the event of an emergency, and the reference number of the emergency response assistance plan.
Each consignor must correctly mark the transportation containers so that the dangerous goods can be quickly identified in the event of an emergency situation. Container identification is also an awareness tool for people involved in transportation. Safety marks such as labels, placards and signs are placed on each container containing dangerous goods.
Means of Containment
Any radioactive material must be transported in containers that are in compliance with the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations. These containers are designed to withstand normal conditions of transport. National and international regulations also set strict, rigorous performance and operating standards. Yellowcake must therefore be packaged in accordance with the existing regulations to ensure the highest level of safety throughout the transportation cycle.
Radiation Protection Program
The consignor, the carrier and the receiver must each have a radiation protection program so that any person coming in contact with radiation progeny has an exposure level that is as low as reasonably achievable.
Strateco employees who prepare the transportation requests and the employees of the selected transport services must be adequately trained and hold a training certificate. The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations determine what constitutes adequate training, and what knowledge is required for the various duties performed.
Emergency Response Assistance Plan
The Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) ensures that a suitable response to emergency situations is immediately available. The ERAP can provide for telephone advice to the personnel at the scene of the emergency or travel to the scene with specialized personnel and equipment. Strateco is therefore required to establish an ERAP and have it approved by Transport Canada to ensure that it is effective.
In the event of an accidental release, Canadian authorities require that a report be made to the appropriate provincial authority, the employer and the consignor. A follow-up report must also be made within 30 days of the occurrence of the accident.
Inspectors and Directions
Transport Canada inspectors can issue directions in relation to non-compliance with the regulations for the transportation and packaging of dangerous goods. All consignors and carriers of dangerous goods must comply with the applicable Canadian regulations, failing which they may be subject to a court order. The Canadian authorities are very strict with regard to compliance with the rules governing transportation of dangerous goods.
A Safe, Secure Transportation System
According to the IAEA, about 20 million packages of radioactive material are transported annually. Not one single transportation accident with serious radiological consequences has ever been reported. This history of safety is due to the provisions and requirements published in all countries and regularly reviewed by the IAEA.
Transport Canada. 2008. “Transportation in Canada: An Overview”
Transport Canada. 2009. "Transportation in Canada: An Overview"
Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material
Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations
Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations