Radioactive material is transported within the EU every day and it accounts for about 1% of all dangerous goods transport in Europe. While most shipments contain material with relatively low levels of radioactivity, some may have highly radioactive substances such as irradiated nuclear fuel.
Directive on the Transport of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel
The EU's Directive on Shipments of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel establishes a system of prior authorisation for such shipments in Europe. The Directive:
- requires operators to notify national authorities about shipments of radioactive materials which depart from, go through, or end up in the EU
- allows EU countries to ship spent fuel to each other for reprocessing and organise the return of the resulting radioactive materials
- allows EU countries to send shipments of radioactive materials that do not comply with the Directive back to their country of origin
- prohibits the export of radioactive waste to African, Caribbean or Pacific countries, to Antarctica, or to any country which does not have the resources to safely manage it.
Working group on the transport of radioactive materials
To help the European Commission develop new regulations on the transport of radioactive materials, the EU set up a Standing Working Group (SWG) of national experts. This group exchanges information on the application of regulations concerning the transport of radioactive materials worldwide. It then makes proposals to the Commission.
The most recent report from the SWG recommended the implementation of a new radioactive waste transport safety programme covering six main areas:
- supporting the international review and revision of radioactive materials transport regulations and safety guides
- strengthening safety and security in the transport of radioactive waste with regards to the latest scientific and technological developments
- furthering the development of emergency preparedness and response to prevent illicit trafficking in radioactive materials
- assisting newer EU countries in the development and implementation of national regulatory infrastructure
- promoting transparency by providing information to the public and the media
- reducing the refusal of safe shipments of radioactive materials and removing barriers to competition.