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Transport of Radioactive Material

Simon Booth, Radsol’s MD presented at a Dangerous Goods conference recently outlining the complexities and differences with the transport of radioactive material in different jurisdictions.  At this Radsol Talks episode, for those who weren’t at that conference and were interested to know more, we wanted to share a summary with you…

Thankfully, there are some common themes across all jurisdictions in Australia, namely:

  • The import process (via ARPANSA)
  • The ‘Responsible Person’ represents the owner of the source(s)
  • Compliance with the ARPANSA Code of Practice for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material – although the version legislated varies across jurisdictions
  • The requirement for:
    • Radiation Protection Program
    • Source Transport Security Plan
    • Consignor’s declaration and supplementary paperwork
    • The Responsible Person to ensure that doses to all personnel (including public) are kept As Low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) / As Low as Reasonably Achievable (ALARA)

The presentation continued to humbly apologise about the complexities radiation safety professionals have created though the use of complex concepts and nomenclature such as:

  • The phrase “radiation dose” might be refer to either absorbed, equivalent or effective dose
  • Both equivalent and effective dose are measured in sieverts (Sv)
  • The sievert is a really large unit of measurement, so it typically has a mathematical prefix applied, such as micro (10^-6, uSv) or milli (10^-3, mSv)
  • On the other end of the scale, the SI unit for measuring radioactive quantities is the becquerel (Bq), which is very small (1 decay per second).  Typically, we might be referring to kBq (10^3), MBq (10^6), GBq (10^9), or TBq (10^12)
  • Complex concepts like Deterministic (known as Tissue Reaction Effects) and Stochastic could be simplified to Acute and Chronic Health Effects
  • A common package type is called an “Excepted Package” because there are some allowable exceptions to external labelling of packages.  Our experience from constant feedback received is that the words “excepted” and “exempt”  are easily confused
  • Around the world, countries are still using non-SI units such as Curies, Rads, and REMs – this continues to affect us here in Australia

The management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is particularly complex.  There are three (3) different definitions for what an exempt quantity is, depending on whether the NORM is being:

  • Stored or Processed;
  • Transported; or
  • Disposed

Each state and territory in Australia (except SA) requires a licence to be held in their jurisdiction for the transport of radioactive material.  Not only does this represent a large cost to maintain each year, but there can be long delays between applying and being granted a licence, due to regulatory inefficiencies.

Some jurisdictions require a licensee to be physically present whenever radioactive material is being transported (e.g. NT and QLD), whereas states like WA allow a licensee to supervise transport on behalf of their organization across the entire state remotely.  It is important to note that Radsol recommends all organisations transporting radioactive material should have multiple licensees to ensure that there is continuous coverage to cover location differences i.e. Karratha is a long way from Perth; annual (and other) leave cycles; the resignation of key personnel; and simply to allow licensees to share knowledge, experience and mentoring.

Expedition of Radiation Management Processes

At Radsp;, we receive many enquiries with reference to having an individual trained to be an RSO (Radiation Safety Officer) so that a project can initiate the purchasing and importation of radiation devices.

Radsol are certainly able to offer a training solution, however, we often find that our clients are interested in alternative solutions, once we advise on their available options.  It is our experience that approaching each enquiry with curiosity to enable us to uncover the objective, rather than just focusing on solutions, which enables clarity and focus for a more robust problem-solving discussion.

One of the first questions we will always ask is, “what type of radiation source are you wanting to be RSO for?”  The term RSO is a generic term and different types of radiation sources have very different licensing requirements in terms of training outcomes and often the requirement exists for a person to have gained experience prior to being granted a licence (i.e. Borehole Logging, Industrial Radiography and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material).

One option that Radsol can provide involves us acting on a client’s behalf to import and store the radiation source (x-ray device or a device containing a radioactive source) until such time as the  approval is received to take possession – generally, there is a lag time between placing the equipment order and the arrival of the radiation device(s).

This layover period allows Radsol the opportunity to assist the client to obtain:

  • Radiation safety training
  • Licensing of personnel
  • Mentoring of personnel to gain experience
  • Licensing (Registration) for the possession of devices
  • Establishing procedures and plans, such as Radiation Management Plans, Radiation Protection Plan (Transport), Source Security Plans, and integration of these procedures with existing systems such as permit to work, or isolation procedures
  • Auditing outcomes, such as providing Certificates of Compliance
  • Purchase of radiation survey meters, and personal dosimeters for the ongoing radiation management

Alternatively, Radsol is also able to enter an ongoing arrangement to provide a contracted RSO.  Our licensed Radiation Protection Advisor’s can be appointed to fulfill an organization’s statutory RSO obligations.  This allows your personnel to focus on your core business and ensure that all legislative needs are being met for your organisation, Radsol will then be responsible for advising you on all required radiation management matters.


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