IAEA and ICAO strengthen cooperation on transport of radioactive materials

15 November 2023

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have agreed to enhance cooperation on the transport of radioactive materials by air to improve the efficiency and speed of shipments. Cooperation between the two organisations began in 1960.

In a joint statement, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar said the agreement “highlights the importance of adherence to the IAEA safety standards for the safe use of radioactive materials and to ICAO standards for global civil aviation safety and security”.

IAEA noted that getting radiopharmaceuticals from the manufacturer to hospitals and medical clinics depends on fast and reliable transport, including by air. Over 10,000 hospitals worldwide use radioisotopes in medicine, mostly for diagnosis.

“The IAEA’s role in ensuring the safe transport of radioactive material by air is essential in the carriage of short-lived radiopharmaceuticals and other crucial radioactive materials,” said ICAO Secretary General Salazar. “ICAO welcomes the heightening of our collaboration in this vitally important area of mutual interest.”

IAEA Director General Grossi said: “It is very important that the work the IAEA and ICAO undertake in developing and strengthening the implementation of international standards is complementary. The IAEA greatly values ICAO’s long-standing contribution to the development and review of IAEA safety standards. We can work even more closely together in other areas of common interest, such as in reducing denials of, and delays in, shipment of radioactive material by air.”

The agreement takes into account the development and review of relevant IAEA safety standards and the harmonisation of best practices globally, with the IAEA and ICAO collaborating to collect and analyse associated information. It also seeks to raise stakeholder awareness through education, training, and outreach, including through emergency preparedness. Another area of focus is radiation research and information exchange on radiation protection in civil aviation, especially regarding cosmic radiation exposure to flight crews.

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