A truck with a radioactive uranium compound was involved in a car accident in North Carolina, leading to hours-long delays and temporary evacuations when HAZMAT crews responded to the scene on Wednesday.
The truck carrying uranium hexafluoride, a chemical that can be used to make fuel for nuclear power plants, collided with a passenger van around 11:30 a.m., officials for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.
Highway Patrol Sgt. KL McVicker told DailyMail.com that the van driver and the truck driver were both getting traffic information.
“The 18-wheeler had uranium hexafluoride with him and he changed lanes and didn’t realize there was a van in his blind spot and his load of radioactive material falling off the trailer,” she said.
“The van had to be towed off the scene, they couldn’t drive away and the truck was steerable because it just pushed its load off, there was no damage to the truck.”
The truck driver was named for making the wrong lane change and the van driver was quoted for driving without a driver’s license, Sgt. McVicker said.
A truck with a radioactive uranium compound was involved in a car accident in North Carolina
Two of the four 1000 gallon containers of uranium hexafluoride on the truck had fallen out in the crash
The truck had collided with a passenger van around 11:30 am and traffic slowed until the lanes reopened at 4:30 am.
Highway Patrol Sgt. KL McVicker said the van driver and truck driver both received traffic information
Highway Patrol officials said the backup caused by that wreckage caused a secondary accident in which the driver suffered “ very serious injuries. ”
Highway Patrol initially evacuated drivers from the scene as a precaution, but later allowed them to return to their cars
No one was injured in the crash and the highway reopened just before 4:30 PM.
Sgt. McVicker told DailyMail.com that the backup caused by that wreckage caused a secondary accident in which the driver suffered “ very serious injuries. ”
The first tractor trailer crash occurred at exit 58, where the highway meets I-295, WNCN reported.
Sgt. McVicker said the secondary collision occurred near milestone 67, when a passenger car crashed into the back of a box truck that had stopped in traffic.
The driver of that passenger car was transported for life to a local hospital. I would consider that a secondary collision due to the blocking of the traffic, ”she said.
Photos from the first scene showed miles of frustrated drivers with their cars parked along the highway.
Highway Patrol initially evacuated drivers from the scene as a precaution, but later allowed them to return to their cars when HAZMAT crews determined there was no threat, WTVD reported.
Gene Booth, the director of the Cumberland County Emergency Department, told me WRAL that two of the four 1000 gallon containers of uranium hexafluoride on the truck had fallen out during the crash.
None of the material appeared to be leaking from the containers, authorities said.
Crews spent more than three hours returning those two containers to the trailer, the outlet reported.
One of the containers was dented after the incident and seen with black skid marks, the Fayetteville Observer reported.
Sgt. McVicker told DailyMail.com the reason it took so long was because HAZMAT crews had to “ continuously check the readings as they were loaded into the truck to make sure there were no leaks in those containers. ”
The truck was operated by Hittman Transport Services according to WRAL.
The company is, she says, a ‘leading transporter of low-level radioactive waste in the country’ website, and is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The company confirmed to DailyMail.com that one of its tractors was involved in the accident and referred comments to Orano.
Photos from the first scene showed miles of frustrated drivers with their cars parked along the highway
Orano, the company for which Hittman was believed to transport the chemical, is a French company specializing in nuclear energy, including mining, storage and recycling of nuclear materials, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities.
DailyMail.com has contacted Orano for more information and additional comments.
WRAL noted that Hittman has a good track record of safety with the United States Department of Transportation.
The company has been named only five times for hazardous materials issues since March 2019, only one of which was related to non-compliance, DOT records show
Of the other four mentions, the company was cited twice for incorrect placards and twice for a package not properly labeled and paperwork.
Uranium hexafluoride is a “highly corrosive chemical” that “releases radioactive particles that can be inhaled, swallowed or penetrate the skin.”
The chemical, which is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process, must be handled in leak-proof containers.
However, the radiation poses only minimal risk to transport and rescuers, as well as to the public, during transportation accidents, according to The Emergency Response Guidebook: A Guidebook for First Responders, WTVD noted.
High exposure to it can cause nausea, vomiting, restlessness, nervousness and convulsions, according to one fact sheet of the New Jersey Health Department.
In 2011, a company handling the chemical pleaded guilty to the crime of knowingly storing hazardous waste without a permit in federal court in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Honeywell International Inc. was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $ 11.8 million, according to one press release of the Ministry of Justice.