Transporting Nuclear Fuel Assemblies

Fast Facts

  • Each year there are about 20 million shipments of radioactive materials worldwide.
  • Since 1971, more than 80,000 tons of used nuclear fuel have been safely transported over both land and sea.
  • To date, there has never been an accident in which a container transporting highly radioactive material has been breached or has leaked.

Countries around the world have safely transported radioactive materials, including fresh and used nuclear fuel, for decades. Methods for transporting nuclear fuel are undertaken in strict accordance with best practices and guidelines developed by regulatory agencies around the world and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nuclear energy facilities depend on the safe, efficient, and reliable transportation of all materials throughout the nuclear fuel cycleThis includes all operations, beginning with the mining of uranium, to the manufacturing of new fuel assemblies, to the eventual shipment of spent fuel to storage facilities.

For security reasons, the nuclear industry accounts for all uranium from the moment it leaves the mine until its final storage. Still, the measures needed to handle uranium safely depend on where they are in the cycle. For example, uranium ore from mines and yellowcake produced in mills are not soluble in water and can easily be recovered in the event of a spill. Until uranium fuel is used in a reactor, the materials do not emit dangerous levels of radiation.

New fuel assemblies have a low level of radioactivity and do not require special shielding when being transported. The casks used for transportation are secure and robust enough to protect the fuel assemblies from being damaged during transport.

Other materials, such as used fuel, are highly radioactive. Carefully designed containers are used to store and to transport these materials, and prevent the release of radioactive material into the environment.

Many of the same principles apply to transporting nuclear isotopes for applications outside of the generation of power, such as food irradiation, crop improvements, industrial gauges and non-destructive testing, and medical diagnosis and therapy.

Facts about Transporting Nuclear Fuel in the UAE

  • Shipping casks and containers are tested and certified by FANR and under the specification of the IAEA.
  • In 2014, FANR approved the fuel transportation containers for Barakah’s nuclear fuel.
  • Before nuclear fuel can be transported, imported, handled and stored in the UAE, ENEC has had to obtain four separate licenses from FANR regulating these activities.
  • UAE signed the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material in 2003 and adheres to its rules.

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