ASN Report 2017
312 ASN report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2017 Chapter 11 - Transport of radioactive substances GRAPH 1: Proportion of packages transported per field of activity Medical Non-nuclear industry and research Nuclear industry 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 in % 1. Radioactive substances traffic The regulations divide the dangerous goods liable to be transported into nine “classes” according to the nature of the corresponding risk (for example: explosive, toxic, flammable, etc. materials). Class 7 covers radioactive substances. The transport of radioactive substances stands out through its considerable diversity. Packages of radioactive substances can weigh from a few hundred grams up to about a hundred tons and the radiological activity of their content can range from a few thousand becquerels to billions of billions of becquerels for the packages of spent nuclear fuel. The safety issues are also extremely varied. The vast majority of packages have limited individual safety implications, but for a small percentage of them, the potential safety consequences are high. About 770,000 consignments of radioactive substances are transported each year in France. This represents about 980,000 packages of radioactive substances, or just a few percent of the total number of dangerous goods packages transported each year in France. The vast majority of shipments are made by road, but some also take place by rail, by sea and by air (see Table 1). These shipments concern three activity sectors: non-nuclear industry, medical sector and nuclear industry (see Graph 1). Most of the packages transported are intended for the non- nuclear industry, or for non-nuclear research: this mainly involves devices containing radioactive sources which are not used in a single location and which therefore need to be transported with considerable frequency. For example, these could be devices for detecting lead in paint, used for real estate sale diagnostics, or gamma radiography devices T he transport of radioactive substances is a specific sector of dangerous goods transport characterised by the risks associated with radioactivity. The scope of regulation of the safety of radioactive substance transport covers various fields of activity in the industrial, medical and research sectors. It is based on stringent international regulations. used to detect defects in materials. Travel to and from the various worksites explains the very large number of transport operations for the non-nuclear industry. The safety issues vary considerably: the radioactive source contained in lead detectors has very low radiological activity, while that contained in gamma radiography devices has a far higher activity. About one third of the packages transported are used in the medical sector: this involves providing health care centres with radioactive sources, for example sealed sources used in radiotherapy, or radiopharmaceutical products, and removing the corresponding radioactive waste. The activity of radiopharmaceutical products decays rapidly (for example, the radioactive half-life of fluorine-18 is close to two hours). Consequently, these products have to be regularly shipped to the nuclear medicine units, creating a large number of transport operations, which have to be carried out correctly to ensure the continuity of the health care given. Most of these products have limited activity levels, although a small proportion of them, such as the sources used in radiotherapy or the irradiated sources used to produce technetium (used in medical imaging) have significant safety implications. Finally, 12% of the packages shipped in France are for the nuclear industry. This represents about 19,000 shipments annually, involving 114,000 packages. These transport operations are necessary for the working of the fuel cycle, owing to the distribution of the various facilities and NPPs around the country (see map below). Depending on the step in the cycle, the physicochemical form and radiological activity of the substances varies widely. The transport operations with very high safety implications are shipments of uranium hexafluoride (UF 6 ) whether or not enriched (dangerous more specifically owing to the toxic and corrosive properties of the hydrogen fluoride formed by UF 6 in contact with water), the spent fuel shipments to the La Hague reprocessing plant and the transport of certain nuclear wastes. The annual transports linked to the nuclear industry can be broken down approximately as follows: ཛྷ ཛྷ 200 shipments transporting spent fuel from the nuclear power plants operated by EDF to the La Hague reprocessing plant operated by Areva; ཛྷ ཛྷ about 100 shipments of plutonium in oxide form transported from the La Hague reprocessing plant to the MELOX fuel production plant in the Gard département ; ཛྷ ཛྷ 250 shipments of uranium (UF 6 ) hexafluoride necessary for the fuel manufacturing cycle; ཛྷ ཛྷ 400 shipments of new uranium-based fuel and some 50 shipments of new uranium and plutonium-based “MOX” fuel; ཛྷ ཛྷ 2,000 shipments from or to foreign countries or transiting via France, representing about 58,000 packages shipped (industrial and type A and B packages).