"How SAFE are radioactive material transportation packages?"
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Safety Record
Packagings are used to safely transport radioactive materials across the United States in over 1.6 million shipments per year. [Weiner et. al., 1991, Risk Analysis, Vol. 11, No. 4, p. 663]

Most shipments are destined for hospitals and medical facilities. Other destinations include industrial, research and manufacturing plants, nuclear power plants and national defense facilities. The last comprehensive survey showed that less than 1 percent of these shipments involve high-level radioactive material. [Javitz et. al., 1985, SAND84-7174, Tables 4 and 8]

The types of materials transported include: Surface Contaminated Object (SCO) Low Specific Activity (LSA) materials, Low-Level Waste (LLW), transuranic waste, spent nuclear fuel, high-level waste, and non-waste shipments of radioactive material which may include radiopharmaceuticals, industrial radiography sources, and fresh nuclear fuel material.

Types of RAM shiped by DOE Annual DOE RAM Shipments
  • Materials and isotopes for medical, industrial and research purposes
  • Weapons and weapons-related materials
  • Radioactive waste
  • Plutonium residues and oxides
  • Highly enriched uranium
  • Spent nuclear fuel
  • New (unirradiated or unused) nuclear fuel
  • DOE ships 5000 of the over 3 million RAM shipments in the USA each year
  • DOE shipments make up most of the radioactivity shipped (~ 75% of total curies shipped)
  • Documented increases in total activity shipped and steady or increasing RAM shipment numbers can be expected to continue.
  • [Javitz et. al., 1985, SAND84-7174]

    Yucca Mountain, NV
    [Yucca Mountain]
    Yucca Mountain is about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas and is located on the Nevada Test Site. The Nevada Test Site, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island, has successfully managed nuclear projects since 1951.

    Nuclear power plants transport many kinds of RAM. For example, spent fuel currently is transported from power plants to other plants with more pool space, but a planned repository at Yucca Mountain is expected to become available later in the 21st century.

    Spent fuel is high level waste. It is highly radioactive because it contains fission products that were created while the fuel was in the reactor. Some of these fission products will take many years to decay or lose their radioactivity. High level waste is also generated by research reactors and defense programs.

    Low-level waste can come from nuclear reactors and other users of RAM, such as hospitals, university research institutes, and defense programs.


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