Emergency Scene

Uranium Hexafluoride

We made it home, without incident, but we did see some things along the way. We were in Illinois, when we passed two flatbed semis, each of which were hauling a single large metal cylinder. I looked up the code on their hazmat sign and it indicated was carrying uranium hexafluoride. This is a molecule that has one uranium atom that is surrounded by six fluorine atoms. This substance is highly toxic. It is radioactive, poisonous and very acidic. Typically, the pictured cylinder only lasts a few decades before it is corroded. Uranium hexafluoride is used to enrich uranium for both purposes of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. As far as I could tell, each truck only had a single driver in the cab and no other escorts. Uranium hexafluoride is used for enrichment at sites in Oakridge, TN, Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH. So, the stretch of I-70 that we passed them on would roughly be in the middle of these three places. Shortly after we passed these vehicles, we encountered what we first thought was just another construction site, but the orange signs were different. They read, Emergency Scene. This scene caused a traffic slowdown and those two trucks caught up with us again there. The emergency appeared to be the result of a previous truck wreck. Huge metal tubs were strewn along the shoulder, carrying who knows what. Workers were busy gathering up these tubs and their contents. Like I said, we made it home, but there was some excitement along the way.

3 thoughts on “Emergency Scene

  1. Yeah, still have memories of working at K-25 (Oak Ridge). I ran some math models (yay FORTRAN and punch cards…). Happy to say that I remember almost none of the details. Was cool though to get to see both methods of enrichment while there before moving to BFE southern Ohio as “technology transfer” team for that site (later decommissioned).

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