Road transport of radioactive material

Requirements and guidance notes for drivers and handlers.

Radioactive materials are routinely transported around the world by air, sea, road and rail. In New Zealand these materials include radioactive sources used in medicine, industry, research and education.

International regulations are in place to ensure that:

  • the chances of an accident, which could result in radioactive material being dispersed in the environment, are minimal
  • workers involved in transport, including handlers and drivers, are protected in both normal and accident conditions.

All transport of radioactive material within New Zealand must comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Materials (PDF, 1.5 MB) and the Land Transport Rule: Dangerous Goods 2005 (the Dangerous Goods Rule).

The Office of Radiation Safety is New Zealand’s regulatory authority for radiation safety.

Handling radioactive material packages

Radioactive material presented for transport is packaged in accordance with the IAEA Regulations. This ensures that it is safe to handle under normal conditions. Nevertheless, there are certain basic instructions you should follow to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation. The exposure you receive depends on how long you stay near, and how close you are, to the package of radioactive material.

To minimise radiation exposure

  • Keep your contact time with the package short.
  • Handle a package of radioactive material without delay – keep it moving.
  • Do not stand around, sit near or sit on a package of radioactive material.
  • Do not carry out time-consuming tasks, such as paperwork, near a package.
  • Keep yourself and other persons as far away as practicable from packages.
  • Store packages well away from offices, rest rooms and occupied work areas.
  • Do not store packages with transport indices that add up to more than 50 in the same location. You will find the transport index written on the Category II or Category III yellow label (see Package labelling).

Who may transport radioactive material packages?

For all radioactive material packages, apart from ‘excepted packages’, drivers must either:

  • have a Dangerous Goods endorsement on their driver licence
  • be licensed through the Office of Radiation Safety to use radioactive material under the Radiation Protection Act 1965 (or working under the instruction or supervision of a licensee) and be carrying the goods as ‘tools of trade’.

Before transport starts

  1. Ensure that a completed and signed Road/Rail/Marine Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods – Class 7 Radioactive Material is included with the transport documents. This is a special version of a dangerous goods declaration that includes additional information to identify radioactive material. A copy of the declaration must be carried in the cab of the vehicle as required under 5.1(3) of the Dangerous Goods Rule.
  2. Check that all packages appear to be in sound condition, undamaged and not leaking.
  3. Check that each package is clearly labelled with one of the category labels indicated in figures 1 to 3 (see Package labelling), and marked with the proper shipping name.
  4. Check that each package is clearly marked with the consignor and/or consignee name and address, the appropriate UN number and the gross mass of the package if it exceeds 50 kg.
  5. Vehicles must display placards in a prominent position on the front and rear of the vehicle (See Vehicle placard). Additional placards may also be displayed on the sides of the vehicle.
  6. Ensure that any packages are fixed securely in the vehicle in a position as remote as practicable from the driver.
  7. Transport operators who carry dangerous goods for hire or reward must comply with the segregation requirements in section 6 of the Dangerous Goods Rule – that is, class 7 radioactive material must not be loaded:
    1. in the same freight container or on the same vehicle as class 1, 2.1, 3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.2 or 8 dangerous goods
    2. in the same freight container or closer than three metres to class 5.1 dangerous goods, if loaded on the same vehicle.
  8. People who carry radioactive material as tools of trade must ensure that they are separated as much as possible, within the load space, from incompatible dangerous goods (those listed in 7a and 7b). In addition, photographic materials should not be carried within one metre of radioactive material as radiation can cause fogging of the film.
  9. Carry Emergency Response Information, in accordance with section 8.3 of the Dangerous Goods Rule.
  10. The driver must have a mobile phone or two-way radio.

Note: Items 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 do not apply to excepted packages (see Excepted packages for further information).

During and after transport

  • Ensure that the journey from the point of collection to the point of delivery is as direct as possible.
  • Do not leave vehicles containing radioactive goods unattended, unless locked in a safe and secure location. In addition, the vehicle should be fitted with a suitable alarm system, which should be set whenever the vehicle is left unattended.
  • No person other than the driver and their assistant(s) may travel in a vehicle carrying radioactive material.
  • Remove any vehicle placards immediately after the packages have been unloaded.

Breakdowns and accidents while carrying radioactive material packages

If the following information is attached to the dangerous goods declaration, it will satisfy the requirement of the Dangerous Goods Rule for emergency response information.

  • In all cases priority should be given to treating any people injured as a result of an accident.
  • If there is definitely no damage to the radioactive load, no special action is necessary beyond making appropriate arrangements to complete the journey as soon as possible.
  • If there is, or might be, damage to the radioactive load, proceed as follows.
    • Inform the Fire Service (111) and the Ministry of Health’s emergency contact (021 393 632) of the accident. State the number of radioactive packages being carried, and quote the transport index and name(s) of radioisotope(s) as detailed on the Shipper’s Declaration.
    • Keep yourself and others away from, and avoid handling, any radioactive material packages.
    • Advise the emergency services and breakdown crews in attendance that the vehicle in question has radioactive material on board.
    • If you have touched a damaged package or objects near it, wash your hands thoroughly and have yourself checked for possible contamination before you leave the scene.
    • Do not eat, drink or smoke, or leave until checked for possible contamination.
    • Note any vehicles involved in the accident – the vehicles should remain at the accident site until cleared by the police or a competent person.
    • Observe any instructions given on the Shipper’s Declaration.

Package types

  • Type B(U) and B(M) – expected to survive severe accidents
  • Type A and Industrial (IP-1 / IP-2 / IP-3) – expected to survive minor accidents
  • Excepted – not expected to survive accidents

Excepted packages

Excepted packages are empty packages that have contained radioactive material, or packages that contain radioactive material in limited quantities or in instruments or manufactured articles, as specified in the IAEA Regulations. They are designed to withstand normal handling conditions during transport, but not accident situations.

The radioactive content permitted in excepted packages is very limited so that in the event of the package being damaged, the radiological hazard is minimal.

The packaging for excepted packages must be designed to meet IAEA requirements and be marked with the UN number. A transport document (consignment note) is also required and must also include the UN number. However, the Office of Radiation Safety considers that, provided they comply with these requirements, excepted packages are not a significant risk during transport. Consequently, in accordance with 1.2 (3) of the Dangerous Goods Rule, the Office of Radiation Safety has declared that excepted packages complying with IAEA requirements do not need to be transported as dangerous goods on land in NZ.

This means that:

  • vehicles do not have to display placards
  • a Shipper’s Declaration is not required
  • drivers do not require an Office of Radiation Safety licence or a dangerous goods endorsement on their driver licence.

Package categories

Category Transport index1 Maximum radiation level anywhere on external surface
I 02 0.005 mSv/h
II Over 0 up to 1 0.5 mSv/h
III Over 1 up to 10 2 mSv/h
III3 Over 10 10 mSv/h
  1. The transport index is a single number assigned to a package containing radioactive material, and is derived from the maximum dose rate at one metre from the package.
  2. If the measured transport index is 0.05 or less then the quoted value may be zero.
  3. Goods with a transport index greater than 10 may only be transported on an individual basis with the prior written authorisation of the Office of Radiation Safety.

Package labelling

Category I (White Label)

The Category I label is a white square turned on its side, at least 100 mm long on each side, with a white 5 mm border. The top of the label shows the radioactivity symbol, and the circle in the middle of the symbol is at least 4 mm in radius. Underneath the symbol is the heading 'RADIOACTIVE I', with the I in red. Underneath it says 'Contents' and 'Activity', with space for the relevant details. The bottom corner of the square has the number '7' in it.

Category II (Yellow Label)

The Category II label is a square turned on its side, at least 100 mm long on each side, with a white 5 mm border. The square is split into two triangles on the top and bottom. The top triangle is yellow, and contains the radioactivity symbol. The circle in the middle of the symbol is at least 4 mm in radius. The bottom triangle is white and contains the heading 'RADIOACTIVE II', with the II in red. Underneath it says 'Contents' and 'Activity', with space for the relevant details. It then has a box saying 'Transport Index', with space to be filled out, and the bottom corner of the square has the number '7' in it.

Category III (Yellow Label)

The Category III label is a square turned on its side, at least 100 mm long on each side, with a white 5 mm border. The square is split into two triangles on the top and bottom. The top triangle is yellow, and contains the radioactivity symbol. The circle in the middle of the symbol is at least 4 mm in radius. The bottom triangle is white and contains the heading 'RADIOACTIVE III', with the III in red. Underneath it says 'Contents' and 'Activity', with space for the relevant details. It then has a box saying 'Transport Index', with space to be filled out, and the bottom corner of the square has the number '7' in it.

Vehicle placard

The vehicle placard is a square turned on its side, at least 250 mm long on each side, with a white 5 mm border. The square is split into two triangles on the top and bottom. The top triangle is yellow, and contains the radioactivity symbol. The circle in the middle of the symbol is at least 10 mm in radius. The bottom triangle is white, and contains the word 'RADIOACTIVE' at the top and the number '7' at the bottom.

  • Minimum dimensions shall be as shown, except when the design of the vehicle or the load does not allow this. If so, the placard must be as large as practicable so that the nature of the load can be readily identified from a distance of 25 metres in daylight.
  • When different dimensions are used the relative proportions must be maintained.
  • The number ‘7’ shall not be less than 25 mm high.
  • The use of the word ‘RADIOACTIVE’ in the bottom half is optional and the placard may alternatively display the appropriate United Nations number for the consignment.

Emergency notification

In emergency please contact the Fire Service (111) and the Ministry of Health’s emergency contact (021 393 632)

Endorsed by:

  • New Zealand Police
  • Land Transport New Zealand
  • Ministry of Health.
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