Sunday, December 27, 2009

Transport of radioactive materials / Sources of pollution

Transport of radioactive materials

Radioactive materials are routinely transported all around the world by air, sea, road. and rail. These materials include those associated with the nuclear fuel cycle - from uranium ores to spent fuel and radioactive waste - but also radionuclides for nuclear medicine and research, and radioactive sources for industry and radiotherapy. Although the safety record of these transports is excellent, they sometimes cause con­cern in the areas through which they pass. For example, a number of countries have expressed particular concern about ships carrying radioactive waste passing through or close to their territorial waters.

Regulations are, therefore, needed not just to ensure that the chances of an accident, which could result in radio­active material being dispersed in the environment, are kept to a minimum, but also to ensure that the workers involved in transport - including those load­ing and unloading shipments as well as drivers/pilots - are protected. Because much of this transport is international, transport safety was one of the first areas in which the IAEA developed safety standards. The IAEA Regulations for the Sale Transport of Radioactive Material were first published in 1961 and have been revised periodically since.

The Regulations govern the necessary packaging, shielding, labelling and other precautions that must be taken when transporting various types of radioactive material, including tests that packages must undergo to prove that they can withstand possible accidents. The requirements are graded according to the level of activity of the mate­rials to be transported. In general, more hazardous radioactive materials need more extensive and more robust packaging and stricter quality and administrative controls.

The regulations for the different modes of transport are issued by different organizations, particularly the International Civil Aviation Organization ( ICAO ) for air transport, the Internationial Maritime Organization (IMO) for transport by sea, and regional organizations such as the Inland Transport Committee of the UN Economic Commission for Europe for transport by land and inland waterways. These organizations' regulations cover all types of hazardous material, and the parts that deal with radioactive materials are based the IAEA Transport Regulations.

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