Workers at Ceres container terminal in north-end Halifax returned to work Saturday morning after experts confirmed no radiation had leaked out of four canisters that were dropped.

It’s been two days since worked stopped at the terminal after the bottom of a large container released Thursday night, dropping up to four canisters filled with uranium hexafluoride six metres to the ground.

Uranium hexafluoride is a chemical compound used in the gas centrifuge process to enrich uranium, that is then used as reactor fuel or to arm nuclear missiles.

Friday night, an expert with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, confirmed what Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency has said — all the canisters were intact.

The canisters — designed for drops of up to 16 metres — held strong and didn’t leak any of the toxic material, according to authorities.

radiation barrels

Canisters like these are designed to withstand a lot of abuse to prevent harmful substances from leaking out. (CBC)

Calvin Whidden, senior vice-president of Cerescorp, the company that operates the terminal, said workers were back on the job at 8 a.m. Saturday morning to finish unloading two of the container ships that had been waiting since work stopped.

“We’ll remove those, bring them ashore and then then continue to unload containers on both of the vessels and finish up those operations,” he said.

A third ship has been idling in the Bedford Basin waiting to dock.

Whidden said he expects to completely clear to backlog by Sunday evening.

He said crews plan to remove the four canisters containing uranium hexafluoride and the damaged flat to which they were secure as soon as possible. 

“We are going to remove the cylinders and the damaged flat off the vessel onto the dock and then proceed to unload the two ships that are [waiting in the harbour] which will be returning to work. As for the [canisters] themselves … they’ll likely be reloaded on a different flat and be trucked — that won’t happen immediately,” said Whidden.

He said he thinks it will be at least Monday before crews attempt to move the canisters. The canisters will be removed from the damaged flat and then sent by truck to the Westinghouse fuel fabrication facility in South Carolina to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors.

Whidden estimates between eight to 10 containers carrying radioactive material are transported through the terminal every month.