The Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the IAEA have joined forces to detect and control the unauthorized movement of radioactive material through the international postal system. In a UPU press release issued 22 October 2002, the two organizations announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that aims to ensure the safe and secure transport of radioactive material through the mail and the detection of illicit radioactive material, including nuclear material, in the international mail stream. The agreement was signed by Mr. Thomas E. Leavey, UPU Director General, and Mr. Piet de Klerk, IAEA Director of the Office of External Relations and Policy Coordination, at a meeting of the UPU´s Postal Security Action Group in Berne, Switzerland today.
Postal services worldwide apply strict measures to control the mailing of radioactive material and other dangerous goods, guided by the UPU's Dangerous Goods Working Group. Some postal authorities allow the mailing of very limited quantities of radioactive materials such as those present in certain medicines.
The October UPU/IAEA agreement calls for the development of safe and cost-effective packaging requirements as well as simple and effective labeling and marking requirements when radioactive materials are accepted for mailing. It further aims to share information of mutual interest between the two organizations and to develop joint training programmes and awareness campaigns.
Among steps being taken, the UPU will, through its Postal Security Action Group and other bodies, encourage the postal services of its 189 member countries to apply measures to ensure the detection of illicit trafficking involving nuclear and other radioactive substances. The IAEA will ensure that issues related to safe and secure postal transports are adequately addressed in its standards and guides. At the global level, the Agency's Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material serve as the basis for "model regulations" of the United Nations Economic and Social Council´s Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. These, in turn, serve as the basis for the international modal regulatory documents issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for air transport, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for sea transport, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for road, rail and inland waterway transport in Europe, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) for transport by post.
Global issues and cooperation in this field will come under the spotlight next July at an International Conference on the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material being organized by the IAEA and partner organizations. The Conference -- co-sponsored by the UPU and the International Maritime Organization (IMO)and in co-operation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) -- takes place at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna, Austria from 7-11 July 2003.