Monday, June 22, 2020


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Operations Center

Event Reports For
6/11/2020 - 6/12/2020 (Note delay of posting)


Agreement StateEvent Number: 54737
Licensee: Belt Railway Co. of Chicago
Region: 3
City: Bedford Park   State: IL
License #: NA
Agreement: Y
NRC Notified By: Gary Forsee
HQ OPS Officer: Ossy Font
Notification Date: 06/04/2020
Notification Time: 16:57 [ET]
Event Date: 06/04/2020
Event Time: 01:00 [CDT]
Last Update Date: 06/04/2020
Emergency Class: Non Emergency
10 CFR Section:
Agreement State
Person (Organization):
Event Text


The following was received from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA; the Agency) via email:

"At approximately 0700 [CDT] on 6/4/2020, the Agency was contacted by the Texas Radiation Control Program to advise that a rail car containing radioactive material had caught fire at the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago (BRC) located 6900 Central Ave., Bedford Park, IL. The Texas program had been contacted by the railway. IEMA staff contacted BRC and was informed that a lidded gondola (car WP-9241) transporting a load of UN2912 LSA-1 was found to be smoldering at approximately 0100 on 6/4/2020. The shipping manifest listed contents as 'solid oxides' with 4.13 mCi of Co-60, Cs-134, Cs-137, U-234, U-235 and U-238. BRC staff agitated the railcar and continued to observe until approximately 0300. At that time, flames had engulfed approximately 10 percent of the car and the Bedford Park Fire/Hazmat team arrived on scene. There is no indication of arson. The fire was monitored and the car separated from an adjacent car also containing LLRW [(Low Level Radioactive Waste)] (WP 9124). At approximately 0630, the fire burned itself out. At 0837, IEMA staff contacted the Response Management Team for the shipper and the General Manager for Alaron/Veolia to get shipping manifests (received 0920). Indications at that time were that the fire was rekindling and soil was added atop the fiberglass lid to help smother.

"Agency responders arrived on scene at approximately 1040. Bedford Park Fire/Hazmat was on scene as well as the railway's emergency response team. AreaRays had been deployed by the hazmat team and were reporting background exposure rates. Based on conversations with the shipper, the subject load contained un-irradiated zirconium fuel cladding and other debris enroute from Alaron Nuclear Services in PA to Waste Control Specialists in TX. The cladding at one point contained enriched fuel, so there is approximately 1.3 mCi of uranium present (predominately U-234 at a concentration of 41 pCi/gram and U-235 at 3 pCi/g. Load contains approximately 44g of SNM [Special Nuclear Material]). It is believed that the friction due to transport created pyrophoric zirconium dust which reacted with the surrounding building debris and combustible waste. This debris and combustible waste was also contaminated with radioactive material - approximately 0.8 mCi of Co-60, Cs-134 and Cs-137 each.

"At the time Agency staff arrived, the lid had been covered with soil and only a small amount of smoke was escaping. This was air sampled for any volatile radioactive contaminants by on site IEMA staff. Areas impacted by smoke, including adjacent cars, were wiped to check for surface contamination. On site measurements did not indicate any deviations from background and there is no indication that the radioactive material within the suspect load impacted personnel or the environment. Lab analyses will supplement this assessment. Impacted areas on the ground were surveyed and exposure rate measurements (reportedly maximally 400 microR/hour on contact with the railcar) documented for any first responder dose recreations. Modeling efforts are underway to provide bounding numbers on potential environmental impacts - albeit unexpected. Temperature of the car was recorded as approximately 400 degrees F and falling. Local Fire/Hazmat was still on scene and the shipper's radiological expertise was expected to arrive at approximately 1530.

"In the initial fire response, approximately 1000 gallons of water was added to the railcar. A hydrant was not accessible. The bulk of this water impacted the fiberglass cover and ran off. This drip line was assessed for contamination and none identified. The car was also moved approximately 2000 feet to distance it from the second car of LLRW. Both sites were evaluated by inspectors and no indications of radioactive contamination identified. Agency staff will continue to monitor the situation, especially if the shipper intends to uncover or repackage the shipment. The incident was reported to the National Response Center under Incident Report 1278842 by the Railway Police Department. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, IEPA and USEPA notified and briefed. This matter is also reportable to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Ops Center for Emergencies under 32 Ill. Adm. Code 340.1220(c)(4)."

Item Number: IL200010

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