Exploring the changing regulatory environment

6 July 2023

Revisions to the IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material 2018 Edition, the so-called SSR-6 (Rev.1) rules, are a key topic for all those concerned with the transport of radioactive materials.

Above: Rules governing the transport of radioactive materials are being revised

In recent years, the use of radioactive materials has continued to increase worldwide for industrial, medical, and experimental purposes. However, the need for safe international transport of radioactive materials continues to increase. There are a number of drivers. The countries where radioactive materials are produced and supplied and the places where they are used are often different countries. In addition, the expansion of conflict zones and the outbreak of pandemics over the past few years have caused confusion in terms of means of transport and changes in transport routes. This has had a significant impact across the field of radioactive material transport. There are also growing demands for rationalization of the rules governing the transport of radioactive materials. This includes a reexamination of international transport means and the relaxation of requirements for larger transport items and mass transport systems. In addition, a new topic of particular interest in recent years is the new "concern" of how to handle the transport of Small Modular and Advanced reactors or Transportable Nuclear Power Plants (TNPP) within the transport regulations of radioactive materials.

The Regulatory & Institutional Environment track of PATRAM 2022 will include a number of reports on the current regulatory and institutional environment as it relates to the transport of radioactive materials and the circumstances surrounding these operations. Specifically, each topic theme will include specific examples and management reports on the topics introduced by the revisions of the IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material 2018 Edition “SSR-6 (Rev.1)” rules. In particular this includes consideration of aging in the design of transports, post-storage transport assuming the transport of spent fuel, introduction of Gap Analysis, and the introduction of SCO-III, a large transport for contaminated materials.

The revisions to SSR-6 (Rev.1) are currently being discussed at TRANSSC and several articles have already been submitted proposing to shorten the review cycle of SSR-6 in order to quickly incorporate recent changes in the radioactive material transport environment.

Discussions are also planned looking at the status of the introduction of an updated fundamental value A1A2 as one of the proposals to improve safety in the actual SSR-6 (Rev.1).

Regarding the historical background of the IAEA Transport Regulations, the first edition was enacted in 1961, and the requirements described in the Regulations have been revised many times. However, due to the retirement of contributing experts from various countries who understand the history of the requirements since the original enactment of the Regulations, it has become more important in recent years to pass on the technical basis from generation to generation. To this end, explanations of the test conditions and requirements that have been described for a long time are also planned at the forthcoming PATRAM meeting.

Concerning the status of regulations based on recent requests from the transport side in each country, issues such as the measures needed to prepare for the transport of spent fuel to large-scale interim storage facilities, the incorporation of human factors into regulations, and the transparency of the process of design certification for transport are also hot topics. Reports on ensuring compliance with shipping container designs that do not require approval are also planned.

Many conceptual designs for portable reactors exist, including those currently in commercial use, and their inclusion in IAEA transport regulations is still under consideration. However, floating nuclear power plants (FNPPs) are already in practical use, and security concerns when their transport crosses the territorial waters of multiple countries and the concept of an emergency planning zone in case of an accident will be a key area of discussion. The TNPP is an area that requires special attention because of the increase in the number of users and the possibility of unintended proliferation of nuclear materials.

Author: Dr Takuji Fukuda, Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan

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