"How SAFE are radioactive material transportation packages?"



What are they?
When are they used?
How are they moved?
What's their construction?
Who uses them?
Who makes rules?
What are the requirements?
Safety Record
Radioactive material has been shipped in the U. S. for more than 50 years with no occurrences of death or serious injury from exposure of the contents of these shipments.

Hazardous Material Shipments for 1 Year
Internationally 300 million
United States 3 million
DOE <1% or 5,000 (out of 3 million)
[U.S. DOE NTP, 1999, Transporting Radioactive Materials]

All radioactive shipments are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Since transport accidents cannot be prevented, the regulations are primarily designed to:

  • Insure safety in routine handling situations for minimally hazardous material
  • Insure integrity under all circumstances for highly dangerous materials

These goals are accomplished by focusing on the packaging and its ability to:

  • Contain the material (prevent leaks)
  • Prevent unusual occurrences (such as criticality)
  • Reduce external radiation to safe levels (provide shielding)

The Radioactive Material Incident Report (RMIR) Database was developed in 1981 at the Transportation Programs Department of Sandia National Laboratories to support its research and development activities for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

This database contains information about radioactive materials transportation incidents that have occurred in the U.S. since 1971.

These data were drawn from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazardous Material Incident Report System, from Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) files, and from various agencies, including state radiological control offices.

Radioactive Materials Incident Report (RMIR)
During 180 million radioactive material shipments in the U.S.
from 1971 - 2000
Transportation Accidents
(RAM carrying vehicle is involved in a fender bender, RAM carrying vehicle rolls over)
Handling Accidents
(package is dropped while being loaded, RAM package gets dented by a fork lift while being loaded or unloaded from transportation vehicle, RAM vehicle gets flat tire)
Other Occurrences
(surface contamination is higher than allowed, shipping papers are improperly filled out, brake light goes out on RAM vehicle)
Total 1965

DOE | NTP Headquarters | NTP Albuquerque Operations
Sandia National Laboratories | Nuclear Energy & Fuel Cucle Programs
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