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Wednesday, 12 July 2006
Hazardous materials on the M25

uranium hexafluoride

Traffic on the M25 has been bad these recent evenings. Part of the problem is the roadworks around Junction 10 (anti-clockwise) which will continue for a couple of months. So I have been spotting cars, trains, trucks and other automobiles. I first noticed that this truck has a sign on the rear that warns that the truck carries radioactive materials. The truck looks empty in this photograph, but there was some kind of barrel strapped on the back (near to the drivers cab). With a bit of googling I found a number of documents pertaining to the transport of radioactive materials (by road or rail) which suggest that the plate of numbers on the back (78 and 2978) are codes to indicate the nature of the radioactive cargo. If I am correct, these codes indicate that the truck is carrying non-fissile uranium hexafluoride. I am not sure exactly what this is, but according to wikipedia, uranium hexafluoride is used in Isotope separation, most commonly in the nuclear energy (or weapons) industry. There are clear regulations governing the transport of this product on our transportations networks as it is considered a hazardous material.

On the plus side, if there is one, the information about this product states that

Its corrosivity presents a greater hazard than its radioactivity and its packaging is designed to reflect this.

And I was wondering only this morning why a stretch of the M25 motorway had to be closed for over 12 hours due to spillage of a substance from the truck that was transporting it. This was mentioned in the traffic report this morning (or was it yesterday morning?).  I am not suggesting this was due to uranium hexafloride, as I recall that in 2004 a diesel tanker managed to shut down the M25.

My Googling also turned up (in this forum discussion thread) a comment by a truck driver in November 2004:

I am a lorry driver with an adr licence and I carry hazardous goods everyday.
some chemicals that I carry, such as catalysts are extremely flammable and in some cases explosive. You can spot these vehicles on the road because they have to have orange plates on the front and the back of the vehicle to inform emergency services that we have a dangerous load. We must also carry details of our load in the form of trem cards which the emergency services use to determine how to treat the load in the event of an accident. We are governed by strict codes which tell us where we can park up and also where, what and how we store and secure our loads . We also have very strict procedures that we must follow in the event of a spillage,fire or an accident. Due to the nature of our loads most sensible adr drivers take more care on the road ie leaving larger stopping distances, observing speed limits and driving with extra caution. I know there was a problem with a leaking petrol tanker on the m25 recently this may have been the cause of your hold up. As you can imagine it would only need a spark from a high tension lead from a car to ignite petrol vapour fumes and this would require both lanes to be shut whilst the emergency services deal with the problem. All nature of dangerous goods are carried on our roads even explosives. So when you see a lorry with orange plates on the back and front, its a good idea to treat them with caution.

Posted by bigblue on 12/07/2006 at 08:28 PM
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomEngland • (4) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

you may not be aware…but one of the most hazardous products on the road is…..milk?

Posted by ian  on  14/07/2006  at  08:47 AM

You are joking?

Assuming you are not, I tried to work this one out. My thoughts were:

* Lactose intolerance (most humans are lactose intolerant) results in diahorrea and gas. This is dangerous as it can result in drivers crashing?
* Milk contains hormones that are fed to the cows to promote their production of milk. These can cause disease.
* Milk contains a high amount of fat, and is difficult to digest. This causes tiredness, even when milk is consumed in another product, such as tea.

Am I on the right track?

Posted by bigblue  on  14/07/2006  at  11:26 PM

Yes, on the right track.
When Milk goes “off”, and pasturisation only slows the process, the enzymes become very hazardous and expand in the tank. If not vented properly, it can explode (but milk smells very bad when it’s gone off and it’s these toxic fumes are the environmental problem). Similarly, if the “tank” is cleaned with hot water, it has to be vented so when the air contracts, it doesn’t cause the tank to implode.
See how many tankers have indents (excluding petrol tankers).....they are not usually caused by external forces.

Posted by ian  on  17/07/2006  at  01:06 PM

Yeah, I should have checked that out on ian knows!

Posted by bigblue  on  17/07/2006  at  08:32 PM

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