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Safe and Secure Transport of Radioactive Material: New IAEA Publication Issued


A new publication helps policymakers address the needs of both nuclear safety and security at the same time.

Labelling packages, vehicles and freight containers with the black-and-yellow trefoil radiation symbol during transport of nuclear and radioactive materials is a safety requirement to inform about the nature and the material transported. However, at the same time, this label reveals the contents of the shipment to those intending to do harm.

This is an example of the type of issues that can arise between safety and security considerations for transport and which are addressed in a new IAEA publication on Managing the Interface between Safety and Security for Normal Commercial Shipments of Radioactive Material.

The consensus to address safety and security jointly emerged at the first International Conference on the Safe and Secure Transport of Radioactive Material in 2011, and this new IAEA publication is part of the implementation to address this important issue. Ten years later, experts from both areas interacted closely during the International Conference on the Safe and Secure Transport of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials with the aim to further explore this interface and create synergies between the areas of safety and security.

The safe and secure transport of radioactive material requires a framework that combines regulatory requirements, package certification, inspections and a monitoring system that meet the needs of both disciplines. “The authorities should ensure that security measures for radioactive material in transport are taking into account those measures established for safety, and vice versa. This way the two sets of measures re-enforce each other,” said David Ladsous, Head of the IAEA’s Transport Security Unit. “This publication offers an exhaustive analysis of the safety-security interface and provides very practical tips.”

This new publication enhances further the IAEA’s efforts to provide technical advice and practical information based on the best international practices of national authorities, shippers, carriers, receivers and others engaged in the transport of radioactive material. It focuses on normal commercial shipments, in other words on those shipments involving the most common sealed radioactive sources used for peaceful purposes in areas such as health, food, agriculture, and industry. Even such low-risk radioactive material is of security concern because if used by adversaries, it could cause harm.

“As millions of packages containing radioactive material are transported across the world every year, the international adherence to the established transport safety regulations has helped to keep people and the environment safe from radiological hazards. We need to ensure that safety measures and security measures complement each other, and this new IAEA publication is indeed a tool of critical importance in that regard,” said Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department for Nuclear Safety and Security.

The new publication provides a list of specific actions that can support governments and transport operators to enhance and establish processes to identify any potential non-compliance or gaps in their safety and security requirements, as well as advice on how to resolve potential issues between safety and security measures as the one about the labelling of packages, vehicles and freight containers.  

“Various practical tools also offered by the IAEA complement this publication, such as the e-learning modules on the safe transport of radioactive material,” added Stephen Whittingham, Head of the IAEA’s Transport Safety Unit, explaining that “these focused trainings aim to accommodate the diverse needs of the authorities and operators and provide an important capacity building resource.”

To take the e-learning modules offered by the IAEA, register here. Other relevant publications include Nuclear Security Series document 9-G Security of Radioactive Material in Transport and IAEA Safety Standard Series document SSR-6 Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material.

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