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Dealing with Vehicle Accidents Involving Radioactive Materials (Part 2 of 2)

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Please note this blog is a continuation, if you have not read the first part please click here to be redirected to part 1 of 2.  


Immediate action should be taken to administer medical attention as required, and they should be safely removed from the hot zone. Paramedics and the admitting hospital should be informed that there is a possibility of radioactive contamination.  Departmental policy on the handling of contaminated personnel should be followed.

Fire Suppression

ln cases where there is a fire, fuel spill, or another potential hazard that could impact and/or cause a deterioration of the emergency scene, mitigating measures such as suppression or other action should be taken. By doing this you will limit the spread of air, water, or ground contamination. where suppression efforts are required they should be conducted in a manner that limits firefighter exposure.  Where possible, the use of alternate suppression agents such as dry chemical, CO2 or compressed air foam should be considered. These agents will reduce the likelihood of contamination due to water runoff.









In the highly unlikely event, Fissile materials are present, extreme caution must be taken. Fissile materials are composed of a material that can achieve a self-sustaining chain reaction (criticality), which could result in the release of an enormous amount of energy and radioactive materials. Special controls are placed on fissile materials during transportation to ensure critical safety. Unless properly trained and equipped, the Fire Department should only take action where absolutely necessary.


Spill/Leak Control

Most radioactive materials are transported in a solid-state, however, in the case of a radioactive solution release, isolate or dike the spill in all directions, while minimizing your exposure and where possible stay uphill and upwind to the extent possible.



Internal departmental decontamination protocols must be strictly followed.  Generally, where Radiation Safety personnel or Geiger Counters are available, firefighters should not leave the warm zone or go off air before they have been scanned for contamination by a qualified person.  Where not available, firefighters should remove and bag all PPE before isolating their air supply and removing their masks.  Any PPE contaminated or suspected of being contaminated must be properly packaged, labelled and sent to a facility qualified to decontaminate and clean PPE that may be radioactively contaminated.


Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) (ID No. 2977, 2978 and 3507)

Uranium Hexafluoride (UF) is another material that is routinely transported on highways and by rail.  This product requires special precautions due to the highly corrosive nature of the Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) component of the product. Although the material contains Uranium and is radioactive, the chemical hazard of UF6 exceeds the radiation hazard. Extreme caution must be taken for incidents involving shipments of UF6, especially where the container has been damaged.  Any release to the atmosphere will be toxic and if ingested or inhaled UF6 may have negative physiological impacts on a person, primarily their kidneys.  Also, when UF6 comes into contact with water or water vapour, hydrogen fluoride (HF) is formed.  An HF release to the atmosphere would likely produce smoke-like conditions (white cloud) that are very corrosive.  Isolate spill or leak area for at least 25 meters (75 feet) in all directions.  Structural PPE provides minimal protection from HF, so it imperative that firefighters stay uphill and upwind until the spill or leak has been contained.  An incident involving the release of HF generally requires a response by a fully trained and equipped hazmat team. 


Emergency Response Guidebook (U.S. Department of Transportation, Transport Canada)

 The 2020 Emergency Response Guidebook should be used to identify any potential transportation hazard (truck, plane, train, ship, etc.) in North America.  The guidebook provides information on the materials and actions to be taken in an emergency.  Radioactive materials are categorized in the Guidebook as follows:

161 Radioactive Material, (Low-Level Radiation)

162 Radioactive Material, (Low to Moderate Level Radiation)

163 Radioactive Material, (Medium to High-Level Radiation)

164 Radioactive Material, (Special Form/Low to High-Level External Radiation)

165 Radioactive Material, (Fissile/Low to High-Level Radiation)

166 Radioactive Material – Corrosive (Uranium Hexafluoride/Water-Sensitive)


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