Transporting Radioactive Substances
Radioactive substances are classified based on their activity level, measured in becquerel (Bq) or Bq per gram.
A particular substance or consignment may be exempt (none of the regulations apply), excepted (some parts of regulations apply) or otherwise needs to be fully consigned.
On this page
- Examples for some common nuclides
- Contact UCL Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor
- Packaging dangerous goods
- Marking and labelling
- Contact the UCL Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor for advice before arranging transport. email@example.com
- Use approved couriers only, details can be found on the Procurement website
- Make advance arrangements with the receiver of the goods to agree to delivery
- Investigate the need for permits, licences or other customs approval if moving substances from one country to another, particularly if outside the EU
- Transport dangerous goods in your own car or a taxi as the vehicle is unlikely to be insured for this activity
- Transport dangerous goods on the Tube, buses or other public transport - it may attract unwanted attention or Police action
- Carry dangerous goods in your own luggage on aircraft - It is prohibited to carry goods on your person, in carry-on or checked baggage aboard aircraft
Examples for some common nuclides
- H-3 (Tritium)
If the activity of a given substance is less than 1 GBq, it is exempt from transport regulations. Between 1 GBq and 4 GBq (for liquid), it is excepted (some regulations apply). Above 4 GBq it must be fully consigned.
If the activity of a given substance is less than 100 kBq, it is exempt from transport regulations. Between 100 kBq and 50 MBq (for liquid), it is excepted (some regulations apply). Above 50 MBq it must be fully consigned.
Surface dose rate is also important and may need to be measured - to qualify as an excepted package, the activity level must be below the prescribed limit for a radionuclide but also the surface dose rate must not exceed 5 μSv/h.
Contact UCL Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor
If you must transport dangerous goods, contact the UCL Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor in order to correctly classify the substance you wish to transport e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Please provide the following information:
- Name of substance and CAS number, if you know it
- Name of radionuclide (e.g. Ca-45)
- Activity level in Bq
- Quantity of substance (including units)
- Where you intend to transport from and to
- Whether you intend to transport by road or air
Packaging dangerous goods
Packaging requirements will vary depending on the precise nature and quantity of the substance being transported, however, the guidance below is included to provide some general principles, while you wait for detailed advice.
For an excepted consignment, packaging should consist of the following:
- Leak-proof primary receptacle(s)
- Rigid, leak-proof secondary container
- Absorbent material between primary receptacle(s) and secondary container (or cushioning material for solid samples). This material must be sufficient to absorb the contents of all primary receptacles
- Primary receptacles must be individually wrapped or separated to prevent contact between them
Examples of packaging
Samples (left) and stock material (right).
When necessary, shielding should also be provided as part of the package to ensure that the dose rate at the surface of the excepted package does not exceed 5 μSv/h.
Suitable packaging for the transport of dangerous goods can be purchased from the following suppliers:
Marking and labelling
Marking and labelling requirements will vary depending on the precise nature and quantity of the substance being transported and the mode of transport used, however, the guidance below is included to provide some general principles which can be followed, while you await detailed advice.
Example of label
For transport by air, the "Radioactive Material, Excepted Package" handling label must be affixed to the package (example image on the right) with the appropriate UN number added in the space.
The full name address of the shipper (sender) and consignee (person receiving the package) must also be written on the outer package.
The package shall bear the marking "Radioactive" on an internal surface in such a manner that a warning of the presence of radioactive material is visible on opening the package.
Packages must also be labelled with orientation arrows on two opposite vertical sides of the outer package (these are not required if transporting solids).
In all cases, make sure to remove any other labels or symbols that may be on the box - particularly if the box has the names of other organisations or other addresses.
Documentation requirements will vary depending on the precise nature and quantity of the substance being transported and the mode of transport used, however, the guidance below is included to provide some general principles which can be followed, while you await detailed advice.
All items and materials transported as excepted packages need only be described in the transport documents by the appropriate UN number, some examples are given below:
- UN 2910 Radioactive Material, Excepted Package - Limited Quantity of Material
- UN 2909 Radioactive Material, Excepted Package - articles manufactured from natural or depleted uranium or natural thorium
- UN 2911 Radioactive Material, Excepted Package - instruments and articles
There should also be details of the consignor/shipper (person sending the package) and consignee (person receiving the package), the date of shipment and a signed declaration by the consignor.
Full consignment notes are required for radioactive packages which need to be fully consigned, i.e. that exceed the limits set for excepted packages.
In the event of spillage during transport of dangerous goods:
- Isolate spill or leak area immediately in all directions - it may be necessary to evacuate the room and not re-enter for a minimum of 15 minutes
- Keep unauthorised personnel away
- Obtain identity of substance involved if possible
- Do not touch or walk through the spilt material
- Do not touch damaged containers or spilt material unless wearing appropriate protective clothing
- Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate to the material spilt
- absorb spillage with sand or other non-combustible absorbent material while avoiding direct contact with the substance
- Sweep up the solid using a dustpan and brush being careful not to create dust - if necessary damp down the solid before sweeping
- Wipe down any potentially contaminated surfaces and place used wipes inside an appropriate waste container
- Carefully remove disposable PPE and also place inside an appropriate waste container
- Dispose of the waste by appropriate means
- Notify UCL Safety Services by raising an incident report
Report an incident
In the event of theft or damage during transport not involving a spillage:
- contact the courier or other company involved in transport to notify them and
- request an investigation notify UCL Safety Services by raising an incident report
Contact with the skin
If the leaking contents accidentally come into contact with skin or clothes:
- Thoroughly wash off the body with plenty of water
- Remove contaminated clothing
- Keep hands away from eyes nose and mouth
- If the contents are identified as potentially harmful, staff who have come into contact may be advised to visit the Occupational Health or A&E
Last updated: Thursday, July 30, 2020
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