Every year, U.S. shipping companies transport around 3 million shipments containing nuclear material. We use radioactive substances for cancer treatments, power generation, scientific research, and more. Transporting radioactive material isn’t that much different from transporting any other cargo, but it requires specialized equipment and procedures to keep everyone safe.
Laws and Regulations
Shipping nuclear material is one case where most people would agree that extra regulations are a good thing. The regulations vary depending on how radioactive a shipment is. For some materials, the metal walls of a shipping container are more than enough to protect people from radiation. For more dangerous materials that could threaten public safety, regulations dictate specialized packaging, labeling, and handling procedures.
The last thing anyone wants is a containment breach. That’s why nuclear material is shipped in special packaging designed to resist impact, fire, and water and keep radiation from escaping. Containment for radioactive items usually involves multiple layers of metal, concrete, and composite materials.
The world is a dangerous place, and there are many bad actors who would like to get their hands on nuclear material, making extra security necessary. Logistics companies dealing with nuclear items plan their shipping routes carefully, and each shipment is tracked constantly. Trucks may even travel with an escort of armed guards. In addition, most shipments of nuclear material avoid heavily populated areas whenever possible.
It doesn’t take a degree in nuclear physics to drive a truck containing radioactive material, but drivers should at least know the basics. In particular, they must be educated about handling procedures and safety precautions. Radioactive material is generally safe when it’s handled properly, but mistakes can be costly. It’s important that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing.
Transporting nuclear material is a unique challenge for shipping companies, but with proper precautions and preparations, it’s a challenge that any logistics professional can meet.