–A team of firefighters specializing in radioactive risks emptied the load of the dump truck where a radioactive source was detected. (©Sdis 35)
A radioactive waste was detected in a camion-benne, while he was returning to the Saint-Malo Agglomeration waste treatment plant, after his tour on Monday, December 14, 2020. The firefighters isolated the radioactive source, but we will have to wait another fortnight before knowing its nature exact.
“Waste treatment plants are equipped with detection gates in order to detect radioactive risks. This can happen, especially in medical waste. For our part, we master the procedure to be carried out if an anomaly is detected. But it is true that these are not common events, ”indicates Commander Jean-François Bourdais, departmental technical advisor in radiological risk at Sdis 35 (Departmental fire and rescue service).
In such a case, the dump truck is insulated and put into “decay”. “In fact, anything that is radioactive loses its radioactivity over time.” This is what happened on Monday 14th December at the Saint-Malo Agglo plant. It usually takes a few days for radionuclides which have a very short “life” to no longer represent a danger.
A suspicious diaper bag … at first
However, two days later, the transmitters still picked up a radioactive source. Firefighters, dressed in special suits, then intervened to empty the truck and seek the origin of the phenomenon. Meticulous work in which the specialized teams of Sdis are trained. Firefighters eventually located the source : “She was not very big and was about two-thirds of the bucket.” But it was still necessary to completely empty the truck because we did not know if it was in an airtight package or not, ”says Commander Bourdais. Eventually, two plastic bags, as well as another, which was next door and torn and containing adult diapers, were set aside.
“At first, we thought it came from these layers. They could have contained traces of a drug treatment based on radioactive products ”.
The two suspect bags isolated for 20 days
But ultimately, no. The radioactive source is therefore in the other two plastic bags. “For the moment, we cannot open them, in order to avoid any contamination. We therefore isolated them and reduced them to growth. In about twenty days, we will take measurements again. If the radioactivity has disappeared, the bags will be destroyed in the conventional plant circuit. Otherwise, we’ll do more research. “
The commander stresses “that the risk is very low anyway” and that checks were carried out “to verify that the area was not contaminated”.