FAQ

How are nuclear materials safely transported?

Answer

Transport within the current, stringent regulations is safe as can be. Transport of radioactive materials concerns all the installations and activities of the fuel cycle as well as research reactors, hospitals, factories, building sites and homes for fire detectors.

The transport of nuclear materials falls under the international regulations for the transport of dangerous goods, the nuclear part of it being the IAEA Standard Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material.

The « safety in depth » principle is applied: package performance, compliance to requirements, emergency response. Whenever possible, multiple barriers are engineered between the material and the environment. Radioactive transport requires inspection before departure, in transit and on arrival including contamination checks dose rate measurement at the surface.  

Background

Transport within the current, stringent regulations is safe as can be. Transport of radioactive materials concerns all the installations and activities of the fuel cycle as well as research reactors, hospitals, factories, building sites and homes for fire detectors.
The transport of nuclear materials falls under the international regulations for the transport of dangerous goods, the nuclear part of it being the IAEA Standard Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material. Nuclear transportation accounts for less than 2% of all dangerous goods transported every year. Those represent less than 0.02% of all shipments. Regulations must be implemented/enforced in national laws. The « Safety in Depth » principle is applied: package performance, compliance to requirements, emergency response. Whenever possible, multiple barriers are engineered between the material and the environment.
Radioactive transport requires inspection before departure, in transit and on arrival contamination checks, dose rate measurement at the surface.
According to the nature, activity, physical state of the radioactive material, its fissile nature, several types of package are prescribed by IAEA regulations, for example type A (typical: fresh UO2 fuel), type B (typical: spent fuel, high-level waste). Labelling is also mandatory.
 
For nuclear power plants, the transport of radioactive materials is fresh fuel delivery and spent fuel sent to storage or reprocessing. Fuel elements are transported by ship, air, road or rail. The packaging functions are: containment of material, even after accident, prevention of criticality, biological protection and thermal dissipation. Permanent tracking is used for sensitive transports. Security is permanently assured. Experiments have been carried to demonstrate the packaging resistance and the protection of the barriers.
 
Reference: World Nuclear Transport Institute
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