Some Prince Rupert residents were shocked to see trucks with radiation warnings on them driving down 3rd Avenue in downtown Prince Rupert last week. The trucks and their apparently radioactive cargo were mentioned at the last week’s Labour Council meeting and pictures and speculation of what the trucks might be began surfacing on the Internet.
According to the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the trucks that were seen in town were carrying uranium fuel rods, which are to be used in a new nuclear power facility currently being constructed in South Carolina by Westing House Electric Company.
Uranium fuel rods usually pellets of Uranium Oxide placed inside metal tubes, which are then used in the core of a nuclear reactor to generate electricity. The rods were brought to the city from Beijing and arrived on June 23, on board one of the many Chinese cargo ships that stop in Prince Rupert, the Tian Kang He.
The fuel rods are considered to be “Class 7 dangerous goods” according to Canadian shipping laws, which includes everything from fuel rods to military explosives. The port authority says that because of the dangerous goods classification, Fairview Terminal’s security manager personally inspected the cargo before it left the ship to make sure the proper procedures for transporting it are being followed
“When it comes to Class 7 cargo, there are a great number of security measures that are observed. There is no dwell time onshore; the cargo moves directly from the ship, through the x-ray scanner, and then on to a secured vehicle that leaves the city immediately,” says port authority representative, Michael Gurney.
Some Rupert residents have voiced concern that the port never gave anybody notice that they were going to be trucking radioactive materials through the center of town, and some were shocked that the port was allowed to import dangerous goods without having public meetings.
The port says that even though the goods require special precautions, they were not in any real danger of harming any one. They say that the rods were so well shielded inside their containers that they actually gave off less radiation than other kinds of cargo.
“In terms of radiation, when they are scanned – as is all cargo that comes though Fairview- they actually give off less radiation than Bananas, apparently. Which I was shocked to learn myself,” says Gurney.
The port also says that this isn’t the first time that radioactive materials have been shipped through Prince Rupert either; the last time it happened was earlier this year. Gurney says that because of the nature of international trade, sometimes dangerous goods are going to come through the port.
“Substances of this kind also come through the Vancouver Port as well, so Prince Rupert is not alone in being a part of this supply chain,” says Gurney.