Chapter 70: Security in Transport of Radioactive Materials

It was recognized in the early stages of nuclear technology development that radioactive materials present unique hazards during transport.  Consequently, transport of radioactive materials is closely regulated to provide a high degree of safety regulations have been in effect throughout most of the world for decades.  However, transport security recommendations for many types of radioactive materials have been only recently developed.

Transport safety and security for radioactive material have very different development histories and often require different approaches to ensure accomplishment of their objectives.  As transport security becomes more fully developed and integrated into the national regulatory frameworks of more countries, the regulatory authorities, consignors, carriers of radioactive material shipments will be challenged to fully implement programs that address not only the well-recognized requirements for safety, but also those for security.

In determining the security measures to be implemented for radioactive material in transport, a number of topics need to be considered to prevent the unauthorized access to, or theft of, or other malicious acts involving the material.  For the nuclear security regime of a State to function well, the responsibilities of all parties involved must, as a first step, be clearly defined. The threat which the material should be protected against should be determined and well understood by all parties involved in designing the security measures to be applied during transport.  Operators’ security plans, where required, are considered the appropriate way to guide the in-depth implementation of the security measures.  Depending on potential consequences, some types and quantities of material could be more attractive targets for malicious acts than others.  This should be effectively addressed by a graded system of security measures.

The responsibility for establishing, implementing and maintaining a security regime within a State rests entirely with that State. States need to establish a legislative and regulatory framework covering the security of radioactive material in transport that effectively interfaces with the security system applied to such material while in use and during storage.

Security measures taken during the transport of radioactive material to protect it against malicious acts should be based on evaluating the threat to the material and its potential to generate unacceptable consequences.

Development of a radiological model to evaluate the potential radiological consequences resulting from malicious acts provides a logical and transparent basis for developing a graded and consistent system for specifying adequate levels of protection.

Consideration should be given to the impact on human health and to the potential for economic, environmental or social harm and disruption resulting from malicious acts.


The transport of radioactive material is usually an interim phase between production, use, storage and disposal of the material.  The potential radiological consequences of the loss of control due to theft of radioactive material during use, storage or transport do not differ in principle, although the potential consequences of an act of sabotage might differ very much depending on the location of the radioactive material.

In view of the potential vulnerability of radioactive material in transport, the design of an adequate transport security system incorporates the concept of defence in depth and uses a graded approach to achieve the objective of preventing the material from becoming susceptible to malicious acts.

The transport security system should be designed to take into account:

  • The quantity and the physical and chemical form of the radioactive material;
  • The mode(s) of transport;
  • The package(s) being used;
  • Measures that are required:
    • To deter, detect and delay unauthorized access to the radioactive material while in transport and during storage in transit to defeat any attempted malicious acts;
    • To identify the actual possible malicious acts involving any consignment while in transport or during storage incidental to transport to enable an appropriate response and to allow recovery or mitigation efforts to start as soon as possible; and
    • To provide rapid response to any attempts directed towards, or actual, unauthorized access to radioactive material, or to other malicious acts involving radioactive material while in transport or storage incidental to such transport.
  • Capabilities for:
    • Recovering any damaged, stolen or lost radioactive material and bringing it under secure regulatory control; and
    • Minimizing and mitigating the radiological consequences of any theft, sabotage or other malicious act.

The achievement of effective security in transport can be assisted by considering transport schedules, routing, and security of passage, information security and procedures.  In particular, and as far as is operationally practicable, general recommendations to be regarded as best practice are as follows:

  • Regular movement schedules are to be avoided to the extent practicable;
  • Routes are planned in such a way as to avoid areas of natural disaster, civil disorder or known threats; in the case of shipments of Category 1 and 2 sources, alternative routes are identified in advance of such shipments in case they are required under circumstances such that the primary route is not available;
  • The total time that radioactive material is in transport, the number of intermodal transfers and the waiting times associated with the intermodal transfer are kept to the minimum necessary;
  • Advance knowledge of transport information and the security measures applied to the transport are restricted to the minimum number of persons necessary;
  • Packages or conveyances containing radioactive material are not left unattended for any longer than is absolutely necessary; and
  • Radioactive material in transport and in temporary storage incidental to transport is subject to security measures consistent with those to be applied to the material in use and storage.


The guidance in this section applies to all packages of radioactive material defined as requiring at least basic security measures.

2.1       General Security Provisions:

The competent authority should, at its discretion, provide information to operators regarding the potential change in the threat to radioactive material in transport.  Operators should take all threat information into consideration when implementing security measures.  For international transport, the threat information for each State involved in such transport should be considered.

All operators (consignors, carriers, consignees) and other persons engaged in the transport of radioactive material should apply security measures for the transport of radioactive material commensurate with their responsibilities and the level of threat.

Radioactive material should be transferred only to authorized operators.  In normal circumstances, it is sufficient that there is an existing business relationship between a carrier and consignee/consignor.  Where such a relationship does not already exist, a potential carriers or consignee’s suitability or capability to receive or transport radioactive material should be established by confirmation with relevant national regulatory authorities, or trade and industry associations, that the carrier’s or consignee’s interests are legitimate.

When radioactive material is temporarily stored in transit sites (such as warehouses, marshalling yards, etc.), appropriate security measures should be applied to the radioactive material consistent with the measures applied during use and storage.

The operator should have procedures in place that would initiate an inquiry about the status of packages that are not delivered to the intended recipient at the expected time.  Through the course of the inquiry, if it is determined that the package has been lost or stolen or if it appears to have been tampered with, procedures should immediately be initiated to locate and recover the package.

Unless there are overriding safety or operational considerations, packages of radioactive material should be carried in secure and closed or sheeted conveyances. However, such packages individually weighing more than

2000 kg that are sealed and secured to the conveyances may be transported on an open conveyance.  The integrity of locks and seals should be verified before dispatch and on arrival by staffs that are specifically and previously authorized by their employer to undertake this verification.

In the event that packages need to be transported on open conveyances, it may be necessary for the State to consider – in view of the nature of the radioactive material or prevailing threat – whether additional security measures should be applied.  Such measures may include providing guards, shielding the package to provide for external pre-detonation to prevent or mitigate damage to the package in the event of a stand-off attack using rocket propelled armour piercing weapons or similar devices that are not easily defended against, and enhancing route surveillance or response capability.  Packages should be shielded on the basis of advice from safety specialists.

2.2       Basic Security Awareness Training:

Individuals engaged in the transport of radioactive material should receive training, including training in the elements of security awareness.

Security awareness training should address the nature of security related threats, with due recognition of security concerns, methods to address such concerns and actions to be undertaken in the event of a security incident.  It should include awareness of security plans (as appropriate) commensurate with the responsibilities of individuals and their part in implementing security plans.

Such training should be provided or verified upon employment in a position involving the transport of radioactive material and should be periodically supplemented by retraining as deemed appropriate by the competent authority.  Records of all security training undertaken should be kept by the employer and should be made available to the employee if requested.

2.2.1    Personnel Identity Verification:

Each crew member of any conveyance transporting radioactive material should carry means of positive identification during transport (an officially issued photographic identification or biometric record that uniquely identifies the individual).  While biometric forms of identification are preferable, some States may not have the capability to confirm biometric details. Therefore, for international transport, a photographic identification issued by an officially approved company may be the most appropriate method of identification.

2.2.2    Security Verification of Conveyances:

Carriers should perform security inspections of conveyances and should ensure that these security measures remain effective during transport.  In normal circumstances, and as appropriate to the mode of transport, it will be sufficient for the carrier of the conveyance to carry out a visual inspection to ensure that nothing has been tampered with or that nothing has been affixed to the package or conveyance that might compromise the security of the consignment. Such an inspection will require no more than the carrier’s own knowledge of the conveyance.

2.2.3    Written Instructions:

Operators should provide appropriate crew members with written instructions on any required security measures, including how to respond to a security incident during transport.  At the basic security level, it is generally sufficient for these written instructions to contain no more than basic details of emergency contacts.

2.2.4    Exchange of Security Related Information:

Operators should cooperate with each other and with the appropriate authorities to exchange information on applying security measures and responding to security incidents, where the exchange of information does not conflict with requirements for security in respect of sensitive information.

2.2.5    Trustworthiness Determination:

Persons engaged in the transport of radioactive material may be subject to trustworthiness determination by the operator commensurate with their responsibilities. The trustworthiness determination is a determination of the reliability of an individual, including characteristics and details that may be verified, where legally permitted and where necessary, by means of background checks and by checking criminal records. The trustworthiness determination should be based on background checks of previous activities to verify the character and reputation of the individual.


For packages of radioactive material with contents meeting or exceeding the radioactivity threshold for the enhanced security level defined by the IAEA.  The following security measures in this section should be applied over and above those for the basic security level.

3.1        Identification of Carriers and Consignors:

In implementing national security provisions for shipments of radioactive material, the competent authority should establish a programme for identifying consignors or carriers engaged in the transport of radioactive material packages requiring the enhanced security level, for the purpose of communicating security related information.

3.2       Security Plans:

All operators (consignors, carriers, and consignees) and other persons engaged in the transport of radioactive material packages requiring the enhanced security level should develop, adopt, implement, periodically review as necessary and comply with the provisions of a security plan. The security plan should include at least the following elements and should be modified as needed to reflect the threat level at the time of its application and any changes to the transport programme:

  • Specific allocation of responsibilities for security to competent and qualified persons with appropriate authority to carry out their responsibilities;
  • Provision for keeping records of radioactive material packages or types of radioactive material transported;
  • Review of current operations and assessment of vulnerability, including intermodal transfer, storage in transit, handling and distribution as appropriate;
  • Clear statements of measures, including: training, policies including response to conditions of a higher level threat, verification of new employees and employment, operating practices (e.g. choice and use of routes where known, use of guards, access to radioactive material packages requiring the enhanced security level in temporary storage, proximity to vulnerable infrastructure), equipment and resources that are to be used to reduce security related risks;
  • Effective procedures and equipment for timely reporting and dealing with security related threats, breaches of security or security related incidents;
  • Procedures for evaluating and testing security plans and procedures for periodic review and update of the plans;
  • Measures to ensure the security of transport information contained in the security plan;
  • Measures to ensure that the distribution of sensitive transport information is limited, to maintain security of the information. Such measures should not preclude the provision of transport documents and consignor’s declaration as required by TS-R-1;
  • Measures to monitor the location of the shipment; and
  • Where appropriate, details concerning agreements on the point of transfer of responsibility for security.

It is necessary for States to establish clearly responsibility for, and ownership of, the security plan. This will normally be the operator having direct responsibility for the security of the radioactive material in any particular mode or phase of the transport. In the event that transports are subcontracted, it may be appropriate to ensure that contractual arrangements exist to develop and comply with a security plan.

Information required in a security plan under these provisions may be incorporated into plans developed for other purposes. However, security plans will, almost invariably, contain information that should be restricted to those who need to know it for the performance of their duties. Such information should not be included in plans that are developed for other purposes and that may be disseminated more widely.

When developing security plans, operators are required to ensure that appropriate emergency response plans (as required by IAEA Safety Standards Series No. GS-R-2 and supported by related Safety Guides such as IAEA Safety Standards Series No. TS-G-1.2 is incorporated.

3.3       Advance Notification:

The consignor should provide advance notification to the consignee of the planned shipment, mode of transport and expected delivery time.

The consignee should confirm capability and readiness to accept delivery at the expected time, prior to the commencement of transport, and should notify the consignor on receipt or non-receipt within the expected delivery time frame.

The consignor, if requested or required, should provide advance shipment notification to the competent authority of any receiving or transit State. At this level, notification that may be required for security purposes maybe developed from advance notification already required for other purposes.

3.4       Tracking Devices:

When appropriate, tracking methods or devices may be used to monitor the movement of conveyances containing radioactive material. A simple tracking system will be able to track when a shipment has departed, whether the mode of transport has changed and if the material has been placed in interim storage or the consignment has been received. This information about status changes should be readily available to the appropriate parties (i.e. carriers, shippers and other operators). This tracking system may be as simple as a bar code system that provides information on the package location and status. The tracking system, in conjunction with a communications system and response procedures, will allow the operator and the competent authority to react in a timely manner to a malicious act, including theft of radioactive material.

3.5       Communications from the conveyance:

During transport, the carrier should provide, in the conveyance, the capability for personnel to communicate with a designated contact point as specified in the security plan.

3.6       Additional security provisions for Transport by Road, Rail and Inland Waterway:

The carrier should ensure, for transport conveyances by road, rail and inland waterway, the application of devices, equipment or other arrangements to deter, detect, delay and respond to theft, sabotage or other malicious acts affecting the conveyance or its cargo and should ensure that these arrangements are operational and effective at all times.

The operator should maintain continuous attendance of the road conveyance during transport where possible. Where non-attendance is unavoidable, the road conveyance should be secured such that it complies with the criteria for protection, detection and response and preferably in a well illuminated area.


In certain circumstances, States may consider enhancing the foregoing baseline security measures in view of the design basis threat, the assessment of the prevailing threat or the nature of the material being transported.  In such cases, possibly relevant only to certain categories or quantities of radioactive material or to particularly sensitive transports, States may require some or all of the following measures to be applied. This list is not exhaustive.

Additional training, beyond basic security awareness, may be provided to persons engaged in the transport of radioactive material to ensure that they have the proper skills and knowledge for implementing specific security measures associated with their responsibilities.

Radioactive material carriers may be subject to a regime whereby their operations are licensed, their security procedures are subject to audit and their security plans are subject to formal approval and periodic review by the competent authority.

Automated and real time tracking methods or devices may be required, where feasible, to permit a transport control centre to monitor remotely the movement of radioactive material conveyances and packages and the status of the material.

Persons engaged in the transport of radioactive material may be subject to formal national security clearance commensurate with their responsibilities.

Guards may be required to accompany certain transports to provide for continuous effective surveillance of the package and/or conveyance. In such cases it will be important to ensure that guards are adequately trained (especially if they are armed), suitably equipped and fully aware of their responsibilities.

An evaluation of the potential for sabotage and associated radiological consequences for a package design with regard to its mode of transport may be required by the competent authority. This should be done in close consultation with safety specialists.

Prior to loading and shipment, appropriately trained personnel may be required to conduct a thorough search of the conveyance to ensure that it has not been tampered with in any way that could compromise security.

Special attention may be given to procedures that address points where responsibility for security is transferred and at intermodal transfer points.

Consideration may be given to using conveyances that are specially designed or modified to provide additional security features.  The response plan may be reviewed to ensure that there would be an adequate response to any attempts at theft, sabotage or other malicious acts. In particular, coordination with response forces should be reviewed to ensure an appropriate and timely response to an incident.

Appropriate exercises may be carried out in advance of a transport of radioactive material to ensure that contingency plans are adequately robust.  Personnel with specific security responsibilities may be provided with written instructions detailing their responsibilities.

Additional measures, consistent with national requirements, may be taken to protect the confidentiality of information relating to transport operations, including detailed information on schedules and routes. In addition, it may be appropriate to ensure that secure communications are used during the course of the transport and that such measures provide redundancy of systems.


For air transport, shipment is required to be carried out in accordance with the applicable security provisions

For maritime transport, shipment is required to be carried out in accordance with the applicable security provisions of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code as required by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.  These provisions should be supplemented by the information provided by this guide.

Before an international shipment is undertaken, the originating State may make adequate provisions to confirm that the security requirements of the receiving State and any transit States will be met.


  1. Safe Transport of Radioactive Materials, Security in Transport of Radioactive Materials; and
  2. Security in the transport of Radioactive Material.

Chapter 71