Transport regulations and provisions

The IAEA plays a central role in helping countries to ensure that radioactive material is transported safely, both nationally and internationally. For more than 50 years, its transport safety regulations have provided for a high level of protection for people and the environment worldwide.

In 1961, the IAEA published its first regulations for the safe transport of radioactive material. These regulations have been reviewed and updated regularly over the last 50 years, and form the basis of international modal regulations established by other United Nations bodies, such as the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The IAEA requirements are adopted by national regulatory authorities, thereby creating a strong global regulatory framework. The Agency’s transport regulations strike a balance between the need to take account of technical advances, operational experience and the latest radiation protection principles, while maintaining a stable framework of regulatory requirements. The IAEA regularly conducts reviews of these regulations in consultation with Member States and relevant specialized agencies and United Nations bodies.

The regulations address all categories of radioactive material ranging from very low activity, including such materials as ores and concentrates of ores, to very high activity such as spent fuel and high-level waste. The material to be transported must be categorized on the basis of its activity concentration, total activity, fissile characteristics (if any) and other relevant subsidiary characteristics.

Packaging and package requirements are specified on the basis of the hazard of the contents and range from normal commercial packaging (for low hazard contents) to strict design and performance requirements (for higher hazard contents). Specific requirements are also established for marking, labeling, placarding of conveyances, documentation, external radiation limits, operational controls, quality assurance and notification and approval of certain shipments and package types.