The transport of radioactive substances generated by the different applications of nuclear energy is carried out according to the recommendations established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), included in the legislation in force through the European Agreement on the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road.
The set of measures established has the objective of minimizing the probability of a nuclear accident occurring. In case of a nuclear accident the objective is to mitigate its effects, avoiding the dispersion of radioactive material and its possible assimilation by people who are nearby.
During the transport of nuclear waste, the containment of radioactive material must be ensured in order to avoid contaminating people and the environment, controlling the external radiation level and providing warning signs about the contents of the package.
According to the geographical situation of the waste producers and the characteristics of the waste to be removed, a program is drawn up in which the dates, hours and routes of the withdrawal are established. These data are communicated sufficiently in advance to the relevant authorities.
For the transport of waste originating from nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power plants, articulated vehicles of 40 tons of Maximum Authorized Weight are used. For waste from hospitals, laboratories and research centers, smaller vehicles are used.
Types of packaging for the transport of nuclear waste
Depending on its activity, its physical shape, its radioactive content and the type of packaging, five types of packages are distinguished:
- Excepted packages: excepted packages are those packages containing quantities of radioactive material small enough to be exempt from most design and use requirements. However, they must be properly labeled to identify their radioactive content as in the other types of packages.
- Industrial packages: industrial packages are used to transport materials of low radioactivity or contaminated surface.
- Type A packages: Type A packages are designed to safely transport relatively small quantities of radioactive materials and / or low-intensity radioactive sources. In this type, the maximum amounts of radionuclides that can be transported in such packages are limited, so that in case of radionuclide release, the risks of contamination or external radiation are low.
- Type B packages: Type B packages are used to transport larger quantities of radioactive material, such as radioisotopes, spent nuclear fuel, vitrified waste and similar high-activity materials. These packages are designed to withstand the effects of serious nuclear accidents.
Labeling for transport
Regarding the labeling of the packages, three categories are distinguished:
- Category I-White: for packages in which the maximum intensity of the radiation on the surface is 0.005 millisieverts per hour ( mSv / h).
- Category II-Yellow: for packages in which the maximum intensity of radiation on the surface is between 0.005 and 0.5 millisieverts per hour ( mSv / h).
- Category III-Yellow: for those in which the maximum intensity ranges between 0.5 and 2 millisieverts per hour (mSv / h).