Radioactive Material Transportation Program

The purpose of the Radioactive Material Transportation Program is to regulate the transportation of radioactive material in and through Utah. The program tracks shipments of radioactive material anywhere in the state. The program also assists in providing training to emergency responders for radiation emergencies, participates in emergency exercises and is involved in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for waste that is shipped through Utah.

Radioactive materials shipped in and through Utah include medical and research sources, consumer products, industrial sources, uranium ores/alternative feed materials, spent reactor fuel, transuranic waste, low level waste and uranium mill tailings.

Modes of Transportation

Around the world radioactive materials are shipped by air, rail, truck and water. Radioactive materials are shipped by three of these four modes in Utah. Air transport is used for short lived radiopharmaceuticals. Rail transport is used when materials are heavy or bulky and truck transport is used for everything else. EnergySolutions receives over 11,000 shipments per year by rail and over 1,800 shipments per year by truck.

Radioactive materials are shipped by three types of carriers: common, contract and private. Common carriers provide a service to others by carrying other peoples’ materials. Common carriers have published rates for hauling all types of material. Common carriers are not licensed by the NRC. The responsibility for safety rests with the shipper, who must meet the requirements of DOT and NRC. Examples of common carriers are Federal Express and UPS. Contract carriers also provide a service to others. They typically negotiate a specific contract with each individual shipper. Contract carriers are also not licensed by the NRC, however; the contract between the shipper and carrier may require the carrier to perform regulatory requirements. An example of a contract carrier is Tri-State Expedited Service. Private carriers own the radioactive material which they carry. The transport of material is accomplished in direct support of the radioactive material user’s business. These carriers are licensed by the NRC or an Agreement State such as Utah. Industrial radiographers, portable gauge users and well loggers are examples of private carriers who transport their sources from one job site to another.

Packaging of Radioactive Materials

There are four types of packaging for radioactive materials while being transported: Excepted, Industrial, Type A and Type B.

Excepted packaging is for materials with extremely low levels of radioactivity. Excepted packages are authorized for limited quantities of radioactive material that would pose a very low hazard if released in an accident. Examples of material typically shipped in excepted packaging include consumer goods such as smoke detectors.

Industrial packaging is used in certain shipments of low activity material and contaminated objects, which are usually categorized as radioactive waste. Most low-level radioactive waste is shipped in these packages. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations require that these packages allow no identifiable release of the material to the environment during normal transportation and handling.

Type A Packaging is used to transport small quantities of radioactive material with higher concentrations of radioactivity than those shipped in industrial packaging. They are typically constructed of steel, wood, or fiberboard, and have an inner containment vessel made of glass, plastic, or metal surrounded with packing material made of polyethylene, rubber, or vermiculite.

Examples of material typically shipped in Type A Packages include nuclear medicines (radiopharmaceuticals), radioactive waste, and radioactive sources used in industrial applications. Type A packaging and its radioactive contents must meet standard testing requirements designed to ensure that the package retains its containment integrity and shielding under normal transport conditions. Type A packaging is only used to transport non life-endangering amounts of radioactive material.

Type B Packaging is designed to transport material with the highest levels of radioactivity. Type B packaging ranges from small hand-held radiography cameras to heavily shielded steel casks that weigh up to 125 tons. Examples of material transported in Type B packaging include spent nuclear fuel, high-level radioactive waste, and high concentrations of other radioactive material such as cesium and cobalt. Life-endangering amounts of radioactive material are required to be transported in Type B Packages.

Who Regulates Radioactive Material Transportation?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates users of radioactive material (in conjunction with Agreement States like Utah) and the design, construction, use and maintenance of shipping packages for more hazardous radioactive material shipments.

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates shippers and carriers of radioactive material and the conditions of transport (such as routing, tie-downs, vehicle requirements, handling and storage).

The Utah Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation enforce federal highway and motor carrier rules and the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control inspects shipments of waste at Energy Solutions. The Division also receives advance notification of shipments of spent reactor fuel, shipments of transuranic waste to the WIPP and Highway Route Controlled Quantity (HRCQ) shipments.

Radiological Transportation Emergencies

In the event of an emergency during the transportation of radioactive materials there are many federal, state and local agencies that are prepared to respond. These agencies include:


  • Emergency Services (Fire, Police, Medical)
  • Licensee, Shipper, Cleanup Contractors


  • Division of Emergency Services
  • Utah Highway Patrol HAZMAT
  • Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control


  • Department of Energy
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control assists the on-scene responders by helping to define the problem, recommend clean-up strategies, assist in evaluating package integrity, assist in surveying and decontaminating responders and victims. The Division is the authority for regulating the clean-up and disposition of radioactively contaminated materials.

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