A die-hard cask

Some months ago a spent nuclear fuel transport coming from the Netherlands and going to La Hague passed nearby Paris. According to lots of very vocal people it was supposed to be an evil train from hell wreaking havoc wherever it went, spewing giant fireballs of doom. I got rather curious at the prospect of witnessing such an abomination for real so I eagerly went to wait on the platform of a RER station the train was supposed to drive through, expecting to see something along these lines:

Motörhead train (Joe Petagno)

Instead I got something like that:

CASTOR train sitting in the Bourget station (Suaudeau, 2013)

How disappointing. Three plain-looking white coaches trailing behind some nondescript train and only a handful of µSv/h even when standing close to it. Theoretically speaking CASTOR trains (CAsk for Storage and Transport Of Radioactive material) are required by law to yield a dose rate of less than 2 mSv/h at the surface and 100 µSv/h at 2 meters, but practically the measured dose rates are way lower. As for the contamination the limit is of 4 Bq/cm2 but there again smear tests usually give figures that are one order of magnitude below.

Last but not least one could be lead to think that those casks are made out of cheap cardboard and that any flimsy gust of wind could blow them apart. They unexpectedly turn out to be a trifle stronger than that; just see for yourself.

On the last frame of the second video a roasted, half-buried but nevertheless undamaged CASTOR can be seen. Not even close!

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