United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Lost or Stolen Radioactive Sources Involved in Transportation

HPPOS-153 PDR-9111220120

See the Interpretive Guide from the IE Manual entitled as above and dated April 1, 1980.

The guide states that a licensee should not be cited against 10 CFR 20.402 for failure to report that licensed material has been delivered to a common carrier for transport and then has been lost, stolen, misplaced, misrouted or otherwise unaccounted for.

The health physics position was written in the context of 10 CFR 20.402, but it also applies to "new" 10 CFR 20.2201. Section 10 CFR 20.402 [or 10 CFR 20.2201] of the Commission's regulations requires that a licensee make a report to the Commission immediately after the occurrence of certain losses and thefts of licensed material becomes known to the licensee.

This regulation could be interpreted as requiring the licensee-shipper to make the report upon notice of the loss or theft. The report would not be required of the licensee-shipper if the transfer to the licensee-receiver had occurred at place of shipment (FOB-shipment) but would be required if the transfer to the licensee-receiver had occurred at place of receipt (FOB-receipt).

On the other hand, this requirement could be interpreted to mean that the licensee must only make the required report if the material was in the actual possession of the licensee when lost or stolen.

The matter is further clouded by the Memorandum of Understanding between the DOT and NRC dated June 22, 1979. Under the agreement, NRC will require its licensees to make reports if the reportable event "occurs prior to delivery to a carrier for transport or after delivery to a receiver" (Section V.B.). The DOT will require carriers subject to its jurisdiction to make reports to DOT if the reportable event "occurs in transit" (Section V.A.). The term "reportable event" is clarified in DOT regulations, Section 49 CFR 171.15 and 171.16. These events include "fire, breakage, spillage, or suspected radioactive contamination" but do not include lost, stolen, mislaid or waylaid shipments.

Accordingly, in view of the ambiguity in 10 CFR 20.402 [or 10 CFR 20.2201] and the meaning of reportable event within DOT regulations, a licensee should not be cited for violating 10 CFR 20.402 [or 10 CFR 20.2201] in circumstances where licensed material has been delivered to a carrier and then is lost, stolen, misplaced, misrouted, or otherwise unaccounted for.

Since carriers are exempt from NRC regulations, there is no obligation for regional manpower to be used to assist in locating waylaid shipments, whether lost or stolen, or to put pressure on carriers to locate such shipments. However, if it is known that a serious health and safety problem does exist, one or all of representatives from either IE, DOT, States, or licensee-shippers should become involved in the interest of public health and safety. The events of interest would be those set forth in 49 CFR 171.15 and 171.16 as well as high radiation levels.

In addition, while extremely rare, stolen sources should be followed up in the interest of public health and safety. If a report is received of "lost" radioactive material in transit by common carrier, licensees should be encouraged to place a tracer on the shipment; IE need not become further involved.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 20.402, 10 CFR 20.2201

Subject codes: 2.2, 3.7, 12.17

Applicability: All

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, June 15, 2015