Apr 01, 2021 07:02 UTC
  • Truck carrying radioactive uranium compound crashes, closing North Carolina highway

A truck carrying a radioactive compound dumped part of its load Wednesday on southbound Interstate 95 in Cumberland County, creating a delicate cleanup and hours of traffic delays.

Two of the four 1,000-gallon containers of uranium hexafluoride the truck was carrying fell off at about 11:45 a.m. local time between Exit 55 and Exit 58 for Interstate 295 near Wade. No injuries were reported, and none of the material leaked from the containers, said Gene Booth, Cumberland County's Emergency Management Director.

According to Press TV, uranium hexafluoride is a low-level radioactive material used in the nuclear fuel enrichment process. It's often transported as a waste in a solid form, and it turns to gas at higher temperatures. The main concern on site was chemical burns if the material were to escape form the containers.

Hazmat Teams, State Highway Patrol, State Department of Transportation crews and firefighters came up with a plan to safely clear the containers from the highway, Booth said. Crews spent more than three hours getting the two containers back onto the trailer from which they fell.

"It's not a large evacuation area, but it's still a corrosive material and can react with moisture or water. So, they're going to be very careful with how they handle it," Booth said during the process.

I-95 was shut down in both directions for more than an hour before northbound lanes reopened. Southbound lanes reopened shortly after 04:00 p.m. local time.

Some residents who live nearby blamed concrete construction barriers for a rash of crashes in recent weeks.

“We’ve had at least an accident a week since they started this construction, and they all look exactly like this," Larry Shaul said. "They get into that merge area, and they get a collision, and then the traffic goes from one side to the other, and then it shuts down both ways."

The truck was operated by Hittman Transport Services, based in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company touts that it specializes in the transport of low-level radioactive materials, averaging 8 million miles a year and 300 radioactive transports per month.