"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
Requirements for Radioactive Material Packages in the storage and transportation of radioactive material are determined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Energy (DOE), and U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

NRC develops licensing, certification, physical protection, and quality assurance review criteria for spent fuel storage and transportation for the industry and the public.

After determining whether a proposed use, transportation, and/or storage activity involving spent nuclear fuel is consistent with the regulatory framework and the level of risk, the NRC may authorize the action.

NRC's safety and environmental reviews are described in:
10 CFR Part 71 (Commercial transportation packaging systems) and 10 CFR Part 72, (spent fuel storage packaging systems). The certification of storage systems is described under the general license provisions of 10 CFR Part 72.

Packaging designs must be able to withstand a sequence of impact, crush, puncture, fire and immersion test environments; this test sequence provides reasonable assurance that packages will withstand serious transportation accidents.

The packaging design is initially reviewed by the NRC to verify its resistance to accidents. A Certificate of Compliance (COC) for the design must be issued by the NRC before a packaging can be used to transport spent fuel.

The standards established in the regulations require that packagings prevent the loss or dispersion of radioactive contents, provide adequate shielding and heat dissipation, and prevent nuclear criticality under both normal and accident conditions of transportation.

The normal conditions of transportation which must be considered are specified in the regulations in terms of hot and cold environments, pressure differential, vibration, water spray, impact, puncture, and compression tests. The sequence of accident conditions that must be considered are specified in terms of impact, crush, puncture, fire and immersion conditions.

Additionally, NRC conducts the review of the U.S. Department of Energy's applications for storage and transportation packaging systems for the civilian high-level radioactive waste program. Safety and quality assurance inspections of transport packages and spent fuel storage system vendors, users, and fabricators are performed routinely, including the safety inspections of independent spent fuel storage installations. NRC coordinates and develops guidance with other U.S. Government and international agencies on storage and transportation policy and safety issues. When necessary, NRC provides technical support for incident and emergency response.

Packagings for transporting radioactive material are required to meet performance standards that vary with the hazard of the material being shipped. Materials with very small amounts of radioactivity (low specific activity [LSA] or surface contaminated objects [SCO]) are shipped in excepted or industrial packagings. Materials that are more radioactive are required to be shipped in packages that meet a prescribed set of environments called "normal conditions of transportation". Packages for transporting high-activity amounts of radioactive materials must also survive a more severe series of environments called "hypothetical accident conditions".

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