Thousands of packages containing radioactive materials and sources are transported each year by several modes of transport in the Netherlands. A substantial part concerns the delivery of radiopharmaceuticals to hospitals. In addition, dozens of companies that are specialised in non-destructive testing transport radioactive sources by road on a daily basis to various industrial locations or by sea to drilling platforms on the continental shelf for quality control of welds.

Finally, fissile substances or ores are transported regularly for the nuclear industry. After more than fifty years of experience we may conclude that all these movements occur safely, i.e. without any accident resulting in release of significant amounts of radioactive material or exposure of persons to high doses of radiation. This is mainly due to the safety approach that is used when transporting radioactive substances.

Safety approach

The objective  of the safety approach is to protect persons, property and the environment from the effects of radiation in the transport of radioactive material. This protection is achieved by requiring:

  • Containment of the radioactive contents;
  • Control of external radiation levels;
  • Prevention of criticality;
  • Prevention of damage caused by heat.

These requirements are satisfied firstly by applying a graded approach to contents limits for packages and conveyances and to performance standards applied to package designs, depending upon the  hazard of the radioactive contents. Secondly, they are satisfied by imposing conditions on the design and operation of packages and on the maintenance of packagings, including consideration of the nature of the radioactive contents. Finally, they are satisfied by requiring administrative controls, including, where appropriate, approval by competent authorities.

International agreements

The transport of radioactive material is regulated by international (modal) regulations for the transport of dangerous goods. For the transport of radioactive material, these regulations are based on the Regulations for the safe transport of radioactive material of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) .  Apart from these ‘technical’ requirements, each country has administrative requirements  (notification, licensing and certification) under which countries are prepared to accept movements of radioactive materials from other countries through their territories.

License or notification

The following table summarises which transports must be notified and which transports require a licence in the Netherlands.

Notification

Licence

transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of fissionable2 material

X1,3

transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of radiopharmaceuticals

X5

transport of radiopharmaceuticals within the Netherlands (no transport into/from Dutch territory or transit)

X

transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of consumer products containing radioactive substances

X1,4,5

transport of consumer products containing radioactive substances within the Netherlands (no transport into/from Dutch territory or transit)

X1,4

transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of other radioactive substances

X1

transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of high active sealed sources

X

1 The transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of fissionable material is exempt from notification and licensing in case the total activity and/or the activity concentration of the radionuclides is equal or below the limits as defined in Table 2.2.7.2.2.1 of the Accord européen relatif au transport international de marchandises Dangereuses par Route (ADR).

2 Fissionable material is any substance containing 0.1 % uranium, 0.1 % plutonium or 3.0 % thorium, or more, by mass. Note that this definition is not limited to specific isotopes. This means fissionable material covers not only fissile material, but also e.g. depleted uranium used for shielding purposes in transport packages.

3 The transport of fissionable material to and from Antwerp Harbour across the Westerschelde does not require a licence, but must be notified 3 weeks prior instead (notification “Belgievaarder”). A reference to the corresponding Belgium authorisation of the transport must be included in the notification.

4 The transport into/from Dutch territory, transport within the Netherlands or transit of consumer products containing radioactive substances is exempt from notification and licensing in case the total number per shipment is equal or below the maximum number defined in the ‘ANVS-verordening basisveiligheidsnormen stralingsbescherming 2018’.

5 The transport within the Netherlands of consumer products or radiopharmaceuticals in connection with the transport into/from Dutch territory of consumer products or radiopharmaceuticals is exempt from notification.