What to do in case of a transport cask accident – call in the Emergency Response team

28 May 1999

Transnucléaire has devised an emergency response strategy and developed the necessary dedicated equipment for the recovery of a heavy cask carrying spent nuclear fuel in case of rail or road transport accident. To prove that it works, the company organised a full scale field test.

Transnucléaire, part of the Cogema Group, is devoted to the transport of radioactive materials of the nuclear fuel cycle. It performs this activity using all modes of transport – road, rail, sea and air.

To comply with IAEA recommendations for the implementation of an Emergency Response Plan as described in Safety Series 87, Transnucléaire has developed its own comprehensive Emergency Response capability in the event of a transport accident. This ensures that Transnucléaire is able and ready to assist governmental organisations in charge of the implementation of the response plan to face an accident. The company has studied several cases and especially focused on accidents involving heavy casks including spent fuel transport casks.

For each transport configuration and radioactive material transported, a specific plan is available on board of each transport system for responding to any kind of accident situation. This document specifies the following three categories of measures to be taken after a given type of accident:

• Immediate actions to be performed by the drivers or first witnesses to limit as much as possible the consequences of the accident.

• First emergency steps to be performed with the technical support of Transnucléaire staff to prepare for the recovery of the packaging.

• Second emergency steps to be performed by trained participants to recover the packaging.

In addition, in order to facilitate an efficient crisis management, a number of adapted means have been set up:

• Stand-by teams

Technical staff and experts in a variety of specialities have been put together with competence to analyse the situation and to determine the necessary actions. These specialists make-up stand-by teams ready to rapidly join the scene of an accident with the appropriate technical expertise and equipment.

• Crisis room

A crisis room has been fully equipped to provide executives and experts with the appropriate communication means and direct connections with France’s competent authorities. This crisis room, located in Transnucléaire’s headquarters, is also equipped with the satellite tracking of all vehicles, wagons and ships operated by the company.

• Documentation

Documentation is on hand to assess all the parameters of the accident (description and characteristics of the packagings, the materials transported, the transport system, detailed maps, etc).

• Preparation

Dedicated equipment is kept operational to limit the consequences of an accident and also to recover the packaging as quickly as possible.

• Training

The qualified staff, from which the stand-by teams can be drawn, are given particular training to implement the Emergency Response Plan according to their speciality. Practice runs are repeated each year to incorporate new members to the stand-by teams and to test the equipment.

In addition to the relatively standard measures implemented in the first emergency steps, Transnucléaire has developed with the assistance of REEL, a company specialising in heavy lifting equipment, the means for undertaking the second emergency operations. The most spectacular part of this development is the recovery of heavy spent fuel shipping casks after a road or a rail accident.

The main sequence of a heavy cask retrieval operation after a transport accident is shown in the following panel.

Pictured are several scenes from a trial run showing a recovering of a cask having fallen from a train.

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