The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publishes regulations for the safe transport of radioactive materials. These rules form the basis for the international transport schemes for specific modes of transport (by road, rail, sea, inland waterways and air). They also apply in the Netherlands. The regulations and the explanation of these regulations can be found on the IAEA website.
In addition, the IAEA publishes recommendations about a number of specific topics related to the safe transport of radioactive substances such as the management system, the planning and preparing for emergency response to transport accidents involving radioactive material and the radiation protection programme.
Validity of the transport schemes
The transport schemes apply to the transport of radioactive substances via all transport modes (by road, rail, sea, inland waterways and air). Transport is also deemed to include all actions that precede a transport movement (for example, the design and manufacture of packages, loads, etc.) and that take place during a transport (internal storage) and upon completion of the transport (contamination check, unloading and receipt).
The transport schemes do not apply in the following cases:
- When the radioactivity is part of the means of transport.
- When the radioactive substance is being transported within a facility that is licenced for use of such material.
- When the radioactivity is implanted into or is administered to a person or living animal. (Please take note of the distinction. Therefore, not when transporting human remains.)
- When it concerns radioactive material in approved consumer products after delivery to the end user.
All issues related to the transport of radioactive substances have been laid down in the Fissile Materials, Ores and Radioactive Substances (Transport) Decree (hereinafter: Transport Decree) based on the Nuclear Energy Act. As a consequence, the provisions of the Radiation Protection Decree are not applicable to transport activities. This also applies to storage in connection with transport, to the package itself and to transferral into and out of the Dutch territory.
The Transport Decree declares the "Transport on land of hazardous substances" (VLG), "Transport by rail of hazardous substances" (VSG) and ‘Transport by inland waterway of hazardous substances’ (VBG) applicable to the transport instructions and the ministerial regulations, respectively, for the transport of radioactive substances by road, railway or vessel.
The international regulations of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) apply directly in accordance with the Transport Decree with regard to the transport of radioactive substances by air. The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code also applies directly to the transport of radioactive substances to and from the sea or over the sea. In accordance with the aforementioned regulations, the transport of radioactive substances must meet different requirements with regard to packaging, transport documentation, professional expertise, hazard labelling and placarding, stowing methods, vehicle equipment and routing.
The obligations related to the transport of radioactive substances focus on the parties which together constitute the transport chain: the consignor, the carrier and the consignee of the radioactive substance. The principle behind the regulations is that safety during transport must, in the first instance, be guaranteed by a suitably strong package. Different package designs are possible, to the extent that their robustness is commensurate with the risk posed by their contents.
In nearly all cases (except exempted packages), the packages must be provided with hazard labels on the outside. Different categories apply to the labelling depending on the radiation level. Hazard signs must be positioned on the vehicle. The vehicle must be laid out and equipped properly. Packages with radioactive substances must be accompanied by a transport document during transport (a consignment note or a bill of lading) that specifies all important data related to the transport.
In general, a licence is not required to transport radioactive substances. For most transports a notification is considered sufficient. Such notification may apply to a single shipment, but also to several shipments within a specific period (commonly referred to as a global notification and typically granted for one year). In this last case, a list of the actually performed shipments must be provided after the period has expired. A licence is always required for fissile materials. This also applies to natural or depleted uranium that, for example, is used in transport packages as shielding material.
Import and export
A licence for the import, transport and export of radioactive materials or sources is usually not required in the Netherlands. Depending on the package design and the quantity of radioactive substances that you may wish to transport, the regime of "conditional acceptance" applies in most cases. This means that the transport is exempted from government or authority approval provided that all the provisions of the transport regulations are met.
Medicaments for administration to patients and consumer products to which radioactive materials have been added form exception to this rule. A licence requirement applies to both the import and export unless the activity or the activity concentration of the involved radionuclides remain below the values set by the legislator (when it concerns consumables) or the action or activity has been exempted through ministerial regulation due to the limited risk. A licence is always required for fissile material, including natural and depleted uranium.
Separate rules apply with regard to importing and exporting radioactive waste that are described in the Import, Export and Transit of Radioactive Waste and Radiated Spent Fuel Decree (implementation of Directive No. 2006/117/Euratom of the Council).
Strategic good export control
Sometimes a nuclear material can be deemed to be of "dual use". Dual use goods can have both a civil and a military application. Companies that carry or export these "strategic goods" must meet strict conditions. They are obliged to notify these strategic goods or even to apply for a licence. Most rules for the Dutch export control policy have been harmonised internationally. For more information please approach the Centrale Dienst voor In- en Uitvoer (CDIU; Central Import and Export Service).