Frequently Asked Questions about Transporting Nuclear Substances

Frequently Asked Questions about Transporting Nuclear Substances

Q1. How does the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulate the transport of nuclear substances?
Q2. What types of nuclear substances are transported?
Q3. How many shipments of nuclear substances are there in Canada each year?
Q4. Who transports nuclear substances?
Q5. How does regulation of packaging make transport of nuclear substances safer?
Q6. How are packages certified?
Q7. Why must users of certified packages be registered?
Q8. When is a transport licence required?
Q9. What does "in transit" mean?
Q10. How are those involved in the transport industry protected from the contents of packages containing nuclear substances?

Q1. How does the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulate the transport of nuclear substances?
A1.CNSC regulates the transport of nuclear substances through a series of safety-centred regulatory requirements covering the entire journey of a shipment, from the time it is initially packaged to arrival at its destination.

Regulatory control of packaging and transport of nuclear substances is generally exerted through:

  • certifying of packages used for transporting nuclear substances
  • registering users of the certified packaging
  • licensing the transport of nuclear substances
  • issuing licences for the import and export of nuclear substances

Requirements for licensing vary depending on the type of nuclear substance being transported, and the origin and destination of the shipment.

Q2. What types of nuclear substances are transported?
A2.A wide variety of nuclear substances are transported in Canada every year. These range from products for medical and consumer uses, such as smoke detectors, to uranium ore and fuel rods for nuclear power plants.

Q3. How many shipments of nuclear substances are there in Canada each year?
A3. There are thousands of packages containing different nuclear substances shipped to, from and within Canada every year. The majority of these are routine shipments of nuclear substances used for medical, industrial and commercial applications.

Q4. Who transports nuclear substances?
A4. People and businesses registered to use a package certified for the transport of nuclear substances choose the carrier they wish to carry out the transport of the package. Carriers include shipping lines, airlines and air cargo shippers, rail companies, couriers, and trucking companies. In some cases, companies provide their own transport services.

Q5. How does regulation of packaging make transport of nuclear substances safer?
A5. Nuclear substances must be transported in very specific packaging, of which there are different types. To be certified by CNSC, packages must meet stringent performance criteria for shielding, containment, ability to withstand impacts, ability to withstand heat, and more.

The types of packaging are:

  • Type A
  • Type B (requires certification)
  • Type C
  • Industrial packages
  • Excepted packages

The type of package required depends on the nuclear substance being transported and its quantity, and the mode of transportation being used.

Q6. How are packages certified?
A6. CNSC technical specialists examine and scrutinize the safety analyses of the package designs provided by the package designer to determine whether it meets the necessary performance specifications. Only if a package meets all specifications is it certified and allowed to be used for transporting nuclear substances. <

Q7. Why must users of certified packages be registered?
A7. Because nuclear substances must be transported in specific, certified packaging, CNSC regulates shipments by restricting the use of these packages. With this approach, only those who are registered by CNSC to use a certified package can transport nuclear substances, and they can transport only those substances for which the package was designed.

Registration to use a certified package confirms that the registered person or company has the proper instructions to prepare the package for transport, has the necessary radiation protection programs in place, and that they have quality assurance programs in place for the packaging itself.

Registered users are also required to ensure that all persons and parties involved in the transport of the certified package are trained to safely carry out their duties, including employees of companies they hire to transport the package.

Q8. When is a transport licence required?
A8. A licence to transport is required for higher-risk nuclear substances being transported within Canada, those being imported or exported, and those deemed as being "in transit."

The types of nuclear substances which require transport licences can be generally described as those which CNSC, and the international nuclear regulatory community, consider as warranting greater regulatory oversight and scrutiny due to their higher risk. A full listing of which substances require transport licences can be found in the Nuclear Security Regulations and the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations.

Q9. What does "in transit" mean?
A9. "In transit" applies to nuclear substances which originated in one foreign country and are destined for another which, while "in transit," make a stop in Canada, though Canada is not the final destination.

Q10. How are those involved in the transport industry protected from the contents of packages containing nuclear substances?
A10. Companies that transport nuclear substances must train their employees in the proper handling and identification of those nuclear substance shipments in accordance with the Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations for Class 7 material.  Radiation protection programs must also be in place. All shipments of nuclear substances are required to have standard signage and shipping documents which clearly advise those coming into contact with the package of its contents.

It is the responsibility of the sender of the shipment to ensure that the company actually transporting the nuclear substance has fulfilled its requirements for training and radiation protection.

CNSC personnel regularly conduct compliance inspections to assess whether shipments of nuclear substances are carried out in compliance with applicable regulations.