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Nuclear Fuel

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what quantities of nuclear fuel are shipped through the port of Southampton; how much of it reaches Southampton by rail and how much by road; what route through or round Southampton is followed by lorries carrying nuclear fuel; and what safeguards are in force in case of accident.

I am informed that no fabricated nuclear fuel has been shipped through the port of Southampton during the past 16 months. However, uranium compounds which will eventually be fabricated into nuclear fuel are regularly shipped through the port, and transported to and from Southampton by road using the normal container route. These compounds are relatively innocuous in the radoactive sense.In the event of any road or rail accident involving radioactive material, the National Arrangements for Incidents involving Radioactivity (NAIR) would be brought into effect. The police would normally be involved first and they are able to summon assistance from experts in the field of radioactivity. The fire services, who may also be called to the scene of an accident, are fully aware of these emergency arrangements.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether he will make a statement on the accident involving a lorry carrying nuclear fuel on the A33 on Thursday 19th May;(2) if he will conduct an inquiry into the safety aspects of the carriage of nuclear fuel by road, as opposed to rail, in the light of the accident on the A33 on Thursday 19th May.

The vehicle involved in this accident was carrying natural uranium hexafluoride which in the radioactive sense is a relatively innocuous material. The hexafluoride was in a cyclinder within the freight container borne by the vehicle and, although the freight container sustained slight damage, the cylinder itself was unharmed and no spillage occurred thereby demonstrating the adequacy of the packaging used.I see no reason to instigate an inquiry into the safety aspects of the carriage of nuclear fuel by road, as opposed to rail, as a result of this accident. The carriage of radioactive material in the United Kingdom by all modes of transport is governed by stringent regulations and codes of practice which are based upon internationally agreed standards. Safety in transit is ensured by the standard of packaging. The special steel flasks used to transport irradiated nuclear fuel elements have to be capable of withstanding very severe accident conditions involving both impact and fire, and safety is therefore a built-in feature of the design.