Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Transporting radioactive material

Change of telephone number to report transport incidents: 0203 028 0650

ONR's mission is to provide efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry, holding it to account on behalf of the public.  ONR Transport's contribution to achieving the mission is to regulate safety and security during the transport of radioactive material by road and rail in Great Britain. ONR Transport also advises on the transportation of radioactive material by air and sea within the United Kingdom's territorial waters. This includes the movement of flasks carrying spent nuclear fuel from operating and decommissioning nuclear reactors, radio-pharmaceuticals needed for hospitals, sealed radioactive sources needed in the construction industry and, for instance, in the non-destructive testing of North Sea oil rigs.

ONR Transport carries out a range of regulatory activities to assure the safe transport of radioactive materials. Approval is granted for the designs of packages used to carry high-hazard radioactive materials to ensure they meet exacting international safety standards, and the packages are built to robust quality assurance plans, and are correctly used and maintained. Regulation is also carried out through a programme of targeted, risk-informed inspections and engagement with duty holders which may lead to interventions. Inspections examine the management systems utilised by duty holders, as well as compliance with safety and security legal requirements. ONR Transport inspects duty holders across nuclear; non-nuclear; and industrial, medical and carrier sectors.

Regulations governing the transport of radioactive material in Great Britain are based on standards developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA regulations are prescriptive and apply internationally to enable the safe transport of packages across international borders.

For more information see guidance and resources.

For advice and guidance on the transport of dangerous goods you should first consult a Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA .

For specific advice regarding the transport of radioactive materials you should consult a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) .

If you have been unable to get the advice or guidance you seek regarding the transport of radioactive materials from your DGSA or RPA you may wish to email ONR Transport.

Transport incidents

Organisations who transport radioactive substances have a duty to notify ONR of incidents or other events that have the potential to affect safety or security. The following guidance explains when and how to notify ONR:

Change of telephone number to report transport incidents: 0203 028 0650

The Consideration of Temperature on Nuclear Criticality Safety in Transport Applications

According to paragraphs 673(a)(vi) and 679 of the IAEA Transport Regulations, SSR-6, and paragraph 673.8 of the IAEA Transport Guidance, SSG-26, temperatures resulting from ambient conditions of –40°C to +38°C should be considered unless the Competent Authority specifies otherwise in the certificate of approval. Package temperatures resulting from the thermal tests should also be considered.

Temperature variations in a transport package will result in changes in both the physical and nuclear properties of the package materials. Until very recently, it has not been practicable to assess the effects of temperature on the criticality safety of transport packages. Preliminary studies using the latest nuclear data library JEFF3.1.2, which has only recently become available to the industry, indicate that temperature variations may lead to a change in neutron multiplication.

The IAEA Transport Regulations require the impact of temperature on criticality safety to be assessed. Applicants for a transport licence must consider both the nuclear and physical effects of temperature changes (eg reactivity changes from contraction/expansion).

Suitable methods to estimate the impact on criticality safety of low temperatures should be used, for example considerations based on nuclear and physical data and/or suitable extrapolations from data obtained at higher temperatures and supported by reasoned arguments. For those packages with a large criticality safety margin being transported solely in the UK, reasoned argument may be sufficient.

For existing package approvals, the evidence so far does not indicate that temperature variations will compromise criticality safety. ONR is currently discussing this issue with a number of international competent authorities, and establishing research needs in this area.

ONR encourages early engagement in order to discuss package approval applications on a case by case basis; for some applications a temperature restriction or a Special Arrangement may be appropriate. ONR will take a proportionate approach in assessing applications.

Revised fissile exception criteria in effect from 1 July 2015

  • On 1 July 2015 the 2015 Editions of ADR/RID, which are given effect through the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009, became the only valid editions of ADR/RID covering the land transport of radioactive material in Great Britain.
  • ADR/RID 2015 implement the 2012 Edition of the IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material (SSR-6).
  • As from 1st July 2015, dutyholders who wish to claim a fissile exception in order to classify such material using a 'non-fissile or fissile excepted' UN number, must only use those exceptions listed in SSR-6 para 417 and the consignment documentation must now state which exception is being claimed (see SSR-6 para 546(j)).
  • Note that SSR-6 para 822 only permits the continued use of the fissile exceptions in paras 417(a)(i) or (iii) of TS-R-1 (IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material, 2009 Edition) where the packages had been prepared for transport before 31 December 2014.  In this case, the consignment limits in Table 4 of TS-R-1 (2009 edition) shall apply to the whole conveyance.
  • SSR-6 permits the transport of certain non-excepted fissile material in packages that have not received Competent Authority approval as a fissile design provided that one of the provisions of SSR-6 paras 674-675 is met.   Note that such packages must be marked with a 'fissile' UN number, carry a CSI label and comply with the accumulation requirements in SSR-6 paras 568-569.
  • Similar considerations to those in ADR/RID apply to transport by air and sea, whereby the 2015-2016 Edition of the ICAO Technical Instructions and Amendment 37-14 to the IMDG Code implement the revised fissile exception provisions of SSR-6. ICAO Technical Instructions 2015-2016 came in effect on 30 June 2015. Amendment 37-14 to the IMDG Code does not come into sole effect until 1 January 2016.
  • Unexpired certificates of approval issued by ONR which make reference to earlier editions of ADR/RID; ICAO TI; IMDG Code; or IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material will remain valid subject to the above restrictions.
  • Although SSR-6 paragraph numbers are given in this note, dutyholders are reminded that the legal requirements are contained in the modal regulatory texts.

IAEA review/revision cycle commencing 2015

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) commenced a review and revision cycle in 2015 for the regulations and advisory material concerning the transport of radioactive material. Following notification from the IAEA (Note Verbale) and in consultation with the GB Stakeholders, we put forward the following UK proposals and formed a GB position on each of the other Member State’s proposals. We also produced a position paper on two specific proposals that seek to change IAEA SSR-6 [624] with respect to dose rate allowable increases following Normal Conditions of Transport

In November 2015, TRANSCC 31 decided that there were a sufficient number of significant changes required to revise SSR-6 and they tasked a consultancy group to produce a working draft SSR-6.  Based on this draft, we have produced a presentation which briefly describes each of the main changes to SSR-6.

The working draft of SSR-6 will be discussed by TRANSSC 32 in June 2016, after which Member States will have a further 120 days to provide any final comments

October 2016 update

This draft document, is the proposed revision of SSR-6 and has been sent to Member States for final review.  This is not to seek further proposals for changes but instead to check that the implementation of the agreed changes is correct.

Industrial and medical sector transport

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is responsible for regulating the transport of radioactive materials to and from the nuclear licensed sites in the UK. ONR is also responsible for regulating the transport of radioactive materials used by organisations in the industrial and medical sectors (for example; hospital trusts, universities, laboratories etc).

We are currently requesting information from organisations within the industrial and medical sectors that transport radioactive material. The information gathered will be used  to inform our inspection programme and to ensure that a risk based approach is used for the regulation of radioactive material transport.

ONR transport cost recovery

On 1st April 2014 ONR Transport introduced cost recovery for all package design approvals. Prior to the decision to adopt the cost recovery scheme, ONR carried out an Impact Assessment which took into account comments from industry and ONR's other stakeholders. A guidance document explains how cost recovery works across ONR's programmes.

CDG09 Authorisation 500

ONR has issued an Authorisation under Regulation 12 of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (as amended) (CDG).

This Authorisation (No.500) will exclude from CDG the transport of certain very low level radioactive wastes that are permitted to be disposed of as normal waste to public landfill.1 Essentially this means that organisations like schools and universities that are allowed to dispose of very small quantities of radioactivity by this route, may now use normal refuse collection services to do so, subject to conditions in the authorisation.

ONR’s technical assessment supporting this work concludes that there will be no resulting impact on public safety from the introduction of the authorisation.2   

  1. Advice on the disposal of radioactive waste should be sought from the Environment Agency (for England), Natural Resources Wales or the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, as appropriate.
  2. This Authorisation applies only to the radioactive nature of the wastes involved.  All regulatory requirements arising from any other dangerous property must be met in full.

See also