Materials in New Jersey:
day, radioactive materials are transported without incident
along roadways across New Jersey.
To be useful in science
and industry, radioactive materials must be shipped to where they
are needed: to hospitals and medical centers, nuclear power plants,
pharmaceutical firms and other industries, universities and research
laboratories. These materials are transported, for the most part,
two-thirds of all shipments of radioactive materials are transported
to and from medical and research facilities.
- Small quantities
of radioisotopes are shipped, sometimes twice a day, to New
Jersey's many pharmaceutical firms just about every day of
the year. An express mail carrier will pick up this material
in a van or truck at Newark Airport, take the Turnpike to
the appropriate exit, then follow state, county and local
roads to its destination.
- Radioactive materials
are shipped to New Jersey colleges and universities for research.
Some research laboratories require a half-dozen or so shipments
a year, others a half-dozen a week.
- New Jersey's
four nuclear power plants receive 10-20 shipments of fuel
rods in a given year. They will send and/or receive, mostly
by truck, about 300 shipments of radioactive samples, laundry,
slightly contaminated materials and waste in a typical year.
Low-level radioactive waste accounts for about 100 of these
Hospitals and medical
centers as well as research laboratories are the destinations
of almost two-thirds of all shipments of radioactive materials
in New Jersey.
waste accounts for a small portion of the radioactive materials
transported along New Jersey roadways. Other shipments of radioactive
materials pass through the state, whose highways, particularly
the New Jersey Turnpike and I-80, are major transportation arteries
in the New York City/Philadelphia corridor.
The public perception
of shipments of radioactive materials is that they are much
more dangerous than other hazardous cargoes. They cause concern
and fear because of additional perceived hazards associated
with radiation - even though the safety record for transporting
radioactive materials is excellent, and any risks to the public
and the environment even from the few accidents that have occurred
have been negligible.
transportation of radioactive materials has an exemplary safety
Every shipment of radioactive material is carefully regulated
to maximize safety to both the public and the environment. Any
radiological risk during these routine shipments is exceedingly
small - far less, for example, than risks from trucks transporting
gasoline to service stations.
Emergency planning, driver training, and strict inspections
are all part of a program that has helped prevent any radiologically
related deaths or injuries as a result of a transportation accident
in the United States - not to an emergency responder, not to
other rescue personnel, not to any member of the public.
For example, of over 8,600 reported incidents involving the
transport of hazardous materials in one recent year, only 21
involved radioactive materials, and none involved low-level
radioactive waste, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In a 20-year period (1971-1991) studied by the Department of
Energy, there were 53 accidents out of over 200,000 shipments
of low-level radioactive waste. Only four of these involved
a spill of any radioactive material, which was quickly cleaned
up and repackaged. There was never any measurable radiation
exposure to people. Proper packaging ensures that, even
in a severe accident, harmful amounts of radioactive material
will not be released.
radioactive waste accounts for a very small portion of all radioactive
materials that are transported.
Just as radioactive materials have to be transported to the
places at which they are used, so must low-level radioactive
waste be transported from these locations for safe
- Every year, there are about 100 million shipments of hazardous
materials in the United States, mostly on the highways (out
of 500 billion shipments of all sorts).
- Of these, 2 million shipments contain radioactive materials.
These include radiography devices, radiopharmaceuticals, smoke
detectors, luminous dials and indicators, and fuel rods for
nuclear power plants.
- Of these, there are 11,000 shipments of low-level radioactive
waste, almost all of which are carried by truck.
In New Jersey, almost 500 institutions are licensed to use
radioactive materials, which must be shipped to them. Much of
the radioactivity in these materials decays naturally and quickly
to safe, "background" levels. These materials, after
use, are discarded with other trash. A relatively small amount,
however, either decays more slowly or is more concentrated.
This low-level radioactive waste requires special disposal.
Most of this waste, in volume as well as curies, comes from
nuclear power plants.
Although material from about 100 New Jersey sites a year is
shipped out of state for processing and disposal (currently
to Barnwell, South Carolina and Clive, Utah), this low-level
radioactive waste accounts for a small amount of all radioactive
materials transported in the state. Less than 425,000 curies
of the more than 15,000,000 curies transported along New Jersey
roadways from 1989-1993, for example, was low-level radioactive
The strict packaging standards specified by U.S. Department
of Transportation and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations
have reduced the possibility of any harm to people and the environment
associated with the transportation of radioactive materials.
The packaging used is determined by the activity, type and
form of the material to be shipped. Depending on these factors,
radioactive material is shipped in one of three types of containers:
used for materials that present little hazard from radiation
exposure because of their low level of radioactivity. These
containers will retain and protect the contents, such as
contaminated clothing, laboratory samples, and smoke detectors,
during routine transportation.
|Type A Packages...
used for materials with higher specific activity levels.
Regulations require that these packages protect their contents
under conditions normally encountered during transportation.
Type A packages are typically used to transport radiopharmaceuticals
and certain industrial products.
used for radioactive materials that exceed the limits for
a Type A package. Shippers use this type of package for
materials that would present a radiation hazard should there
be a major accident. Type B packages must be able to withstand
severe accident conditions without releasing their contents.
Type B packages, which can range in size from small containers
to containers weighing over 100 tons, are used to transport
such materials as high-level radioactive waste, spent fuel
rods from nuclear power plants, and medical therapy sources.