Radioactive Transport, Transfrontier Shipments and Justification

NIEA enforce a number of regulations, covering the transport of radioactive material, the shipment of radioactive sources and/or radioactive waste across borders (transfrontier shipments) and the justification of practices.

Radioactive Transport Regulations

Anyone wishing to transport radioactive substances in Northern Ireland must comply with the appropriate regulations, which include not only couriers transporting radioactive packages but also industrial radiographers and users of nuclear density gauges. These regulations will not change after the end of the EU Transition Period.

These regulations require all radioactive transport by road to be done in accordance with the provisions set out in Annexes A and B to the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). Some additional requirements in relation to radiological emergencies are also imposed by the 2010 regulations. In Northern Ireland, NIEA are the competent authority for enforcing this legislation.

Who the regulations apply to

The regulations apply not only to the carrier who is actually transporting the goods but there are also obligations on everyone involved in the consignment including the consignor, consignee, packer, loader etc. Different conditions apply depending on the type of radioactive package involved (excepted, type A etc) but in general those involved in radioactive transport must have in place a quality assurance programme covering the transport of radioactive material, a radiation protection programme and procedures for dealing with radiological emergencies.

All staff involved in radioactive transport should have an appropriate level of training (including security training). There are requirements relating to labelling of packages, placarding of vehicles and the type of safety equipment which must be carried in the vehicle.

Advice on transporting radioactive material

If you wish to transport radioactive material you should consult a Radiation Protection Advisor or Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor to ensure you are fully complying with the regulations.

Radioactive Transport Authorisation

NIEA have recently issued an authorisation in accordance with Regulation 9 of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 (CDG 2010), as amended, to permit the transport of radioactive material containing very low levels of activity disposed of in general refuse collection service.

Transfrontier shipments of radioactive waste

Shipping radioactive waste and spent fuel from 1 January 2021

Although the UK’s policy on the import and export of radioactive waste and spent fuel is not changing, some of the processes that GB operators need to follow will change from 1 January 2021.  This will apply to movements in and out of the UK.  No additional controls are being applied to movements between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

What operators in Northern Ireland need to know:

Before 1 January 2021:

EU Council Directive 2006/117 on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel (which sets out requirements for intra-community shipments between Northern Ireland and EU Member States) is listed in Annex II of the Northern Ireland Protocol and will continue to apply in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period.  The effects of this will be minimal to operators here as there are currently no shipments which fall within the scope of the Directive

From 1 January 2021:

Operators in Northern Ireland will need to comply with the Transfrontier Shipment of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 to apply the Directive’s requirements for intra-community shipments to the following types of shipment,

  1. When importing into Northern Ireland from a EU Member State;
  2. When a shipment is transiting through Northern Ireland from a third country to a EU Member State; and
  3. When a shipment is transiting through Northern Ireland from a EU Member State to a third country.

Operators will not be required to request authorisation from NIEA when conducting any of the types of shipments above.  These shipments can be conducted under the authorisation of the competent authority of the EU Member State provided the NIEA Chief Inspector has provided consent. 

Operators will need to ensure that the documentation accompanying the shipment is the EU Directive standard documentation.

When conducting any of the types of shipment above, operators in Northern Ireland will not be required to provide evidence that they have made arrangements with the exporter, and which has been accepted by the exporter’s competent authority, obliging them to take back the radioactive waste if the shipment cannot be completed in accordance with the regulations.

Shipments are within the scope of the 2019 Regulations if a consignment exceeds applicable levels set out in the Directive as it applies at the time of shipment.

The regulations do not introduce any new regulatory requirements for shipments between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

Transfrontier shipments of radioactive substances

What operators in Northern Ireland need to know:

Before 1 January 2021:

If you are importing sealed sources or other relevant sources into Northern Ireland, you must complete a declaration under EURATOM. The declaration should be submitted to the Industrial Pollution & Radiochemical Inspectorate for approval. There is no charge for this and the declaration can cover one shipment or a number of shipments and last for up to 3 years.

From 1 January 2021:

Operators in Northern Ireland will need to comply with the new Shipments of Radioactive Substances (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Imports of sealed radioactive sources to the UK from the EU will still need a prior written declaration to be made before shipments can take place. These can cover more than one shipment and can last up to 3 years.

Prior written declarations made before we leave the EU will remain valid from 1 January 2021 until their specified expiry date.

When a new prior written declaration is needed, this can be made to the relevant competent authority using the form for shipments of radioactive substances available here.

Justification of practices

The use of any practice which involves exposure to radiation must be justified. The principle of  justification is that the practice must produce at least sufficient benefit to the exposed individuals or to society to offset the radiation detriment it causes. The Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 provide the framework for the justification process.

Anyone wishing to introduce a new practice involving exposure to radiation must apply to have it justified under the regulations. 

Further guidance

Further guidance is available from BEIS and there is also a register of justification applications and decisions. NIEA will normally form part of the Justification Liaison Group in the case of practices involving radioactive substances.

For more detailed information on any of these regulations, please contact






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