Federal Actions Are Needed To Improve Safety and Security of Nuclear Materials Transportation

EMD-79-18: Published: May 7, 1979. Publicly Released: May 7, 1979.

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Federal agencies responsible for the safe transportation of nuclear materials have not developed and enforced policies and regulations which adequately protect the public from exposure to radiation during shipments. The Department of Transportation (DOT), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Department of Energy (DOE) have responsibilities for the safe and secure transportation of nuclear materials. These agencies could strengthen their safety and security procedures.

Inspection procedures do not adequately assure that containers meet federal safety specifications. DOT and NRC allow levels of radioactive contamination of packages and transport vehicles which are unnecessarily high. Neither DOT nor NRC adequately inspects shippers and carriers for compliance with Federal transportation regulations. DOE and NRC require special security measures for shipments of weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium when the amount being transported reaches a specified quantity called the strategic level. However, current federal regulations for protecting less than strategic quantities are inadequate. Neither DOT nor NRC has the authority to require states to develop emergency plans for transportation accidents involving nuclear materials. Over 20 percent of the states, however, have passed legislation or regulations governing the transportation of radioactive materials.

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