Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Question on Rail transport of radioactive materials - Hinkley Point

Information released

1. When were the risk assessment/s of the rail transport of radioactive materials from Hinkley Point last reviewed?

Employers have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act  and the Ionising Radiations Regulations (IRR-99) to identify risks to workers and the public from all potential hazards (not just radiological) arising from their activities.  

Neither the ONR or Health and Safety Executive hold any information concerning risk assessments of the rail transport of radioactive material from Hinkley Point because there is no requirement for employers to submit their assessments. 

The radiological risks from the rail transport of radioactive material are managed by operating within the Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations and RID which put into legal force the internationally agreed standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Compliance with these regulations ensures that risks are reduced to an acceptable level as defined by the IAEA Basic Safety Standards.

The ONR seeks to verify that organisations comply with these regulations via a programme of audits, inspections, operational experience feedback (including investigations into abnormal events) and the assessment of package designs.

The IAEA transport standards are the subject of a continuous review process (in which the ONR is fully engaged), the last having resulted in a revised set which will enter UK law in the near future. 

2. Please send me the risk assessments and emergency plans regarding rail transports from/through Bridgwater, Somerset, and Bristol.

As mentioned in (1) the ONR does not hold the information requested.

Shipments of radioactive material from Hinkley Point are covered by the RADSAFE emergency plan which would be activated in the event of an accident during transport. Further information on this scheme can be found on the RADSAFE website (www.radsafe.org.uk).

3. To what distance does shine from the trains and the road vehicles coming from HP to Bridgwater extend?

The radiological impact (radiation doses received by workers and members of the public) of the transport of radioactive material in the UK is periodically assessed by the Health Protection Agency on behalf of the ONR, as required by the regulations referred to in (1).  The last survey relevant to the transport of irradiated nuclear fuel from Hinkley Point was carried out in 2005 and is reported in "Survey into the Radiological Impact of the Normal Transport of Radioactive Material in the UK by Road and Rail (NRPB-W66)". This and similar reports can be accessed via the ONR website.

The report concludes that doses to workers and the public from the transport of irradiated nuclear fuel are low. The characteristics of this material and transport operations have not changed significantly so these conclusions are likely to remain valid. However, a new survey will commence in the near future.

4. What are the current generic radiation limits for rail transports?

The maximum permissible radiation dose-rates and external contamination on packages and vehicles used to transport radioactive material are specified in RID2 and the IAEA regulations3. In addition, operators must comply with IRR-99, in particular the requirements to ensure exposures do not exceed the relevant dose limits and to restrict doses so far as is reasonably practicable. 

5. What have been the actual readings of all transports that have occurred this year at the Bridgwater railhead?

Radiological surveys are carried out on all flasks prior to dispatch from the power stations to ensure that they are within the regulatory limits but the ONR does not hold this data.

There have been instances where contamination levels have been reported to the ONR as having exceeded the permitted levels and these are listed in annual reports assessing the radiological consequences of accidents and incidents involving the transport of radioactive materials in the UK. Copies of these reports produced from 2001 onwards are available via the ONR website at the address given in (3) and earlier ones (back to 1989) are available from the ONR on request. The most recent incidence of a flask being transported to or from Hinkley Point with excessive contamination levels was in 2001.

6. What consideration is given to the airborne mobility of radioactive dust and particles that accumulates on trains en route and the impacts on passengers waiting on platforms and nearby residents via the inhalation pathway?

The report referred to in (3) estimates the radiological impact of contamination on the external surfaces of flasks and their associated railway wagons.

7. How are the impacts on children considered?

See (3) and (6) above.

8. What mechanisms are in place to inform local authorities in Somerset and the schools, parents, residents and workers of when rail transports are occurring and the actual levels of radioactivity they are exposed to along the route?

For security reasons the confirmed time and date of shipments of nuclear material are not issued outside the civil nuclear industry. Radiation levels and exposures have been addressed under (3), (6) and (7).

Exemptions applied

None applicable.

PIT (Public Interest Test) if applicable

None applicable.