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Public Meetings on Transportation of Radioactive Material in Quantities of Concern

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held three public meetings on January 15, 2008, in Lisle, Illinois; January 17, 2008, in Oakland, California; and on January 23, 2008, in Rockville, Maryland, seeking public comments on a proposed policy to enhance security during transportation of Radioactive Materials in Quantities of Concern (RAMQC). (See Transcripts below.)

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Prior to September 11th, 2001, the NRC focus was on the safety and security of people and the environment by protecting from the inadvertent or accidental release of radioactive material. The attacks of 2001 led the NRC to re-think how far a terrorist would go to hurt the public, perhaps using medical and industrial radioactive materials to cause harm. The NRC joined with the international community to look at medical and industrial radioactive materials with this as its main consideration. This effort was lead by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with active participation by the NRC. As part of this process, the NRC reviewed the chemical, physical, and radiological characteristics of each radioactive material for its attractiveness to a terrorist. This effort identified 16 radioactive materials that could pose a serious threat to people and the environment in the wrong hands. This effort further identified the different quantities or thresholds of materials that could be useful to a terrorist. The IAEA published these results in a document titled Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. A link to this document is on the NRC website at Security Enhancement Activities.

The NRC refers to these 16 radioactive materials as Radioactive Materials in Quantities of Concern or RAMQC. The RAMQC thresholds are provided in Figure 1 below. Once the 16 radioactive materials were identified by the IAEA, the NRC reviewed and revised its own security requirements to prevent unauthorized access to these materials. Several areas where additional requirements could be put in place to improve transportation security were identified and changes were instituted.

Figure 1
Radioactive Material in Quantities of Concern (RAMQC) Threshold Limits
Radioactive Material Category 1 Category 2
Americium-241 60 1,600 0.6 16
Americium-241/Beryllium 60 1,600 0.6 16
Californium-252 20 540 0.2 5.4
Curium-244 50 1,400 0.5 14
Cobalt-60 30 810 0.3 8.1
Cesium-137 100 2,700 1.0 27
Gadolinium-153 1000 27,000 10.0 270
Iridium-192 80 2,200 0.8 22
Plutonium-238 60 1,600 0.6 16
Plutonium-239/Beryllium 60 1,600 0.6 16
Promethium-147 40,000 1,100,000 400 11,000
Radium-226 40 1,100 0.4 11
Selenium-75 200 5,400 2.0 54
Strontium-90 (Yttrium-90) 1,000 27,000 10.0 270
Thulium-170 20,000 540,000 200 5,400
Ytterbium-169 300 8,100 3.0 81
1Terabequerel is the official value to be used for determination whether a material is a Category 1 or Category 2 quantity. Curie (Ci) values are provided for practical usefulness only and are rounded after conversion.

Initially, the NRC issued advisories to commercial users of radioactive materials (referred to as licensees) and requested that they implement additional security measures on their shipments of radioactive material. Licensees understood the need for additional security and voluntarily implemented the additional security as requested. However, an NRC advisory doesn't carry the authority of a regulation or an Order, and the NRC cannot impose penalties if a licensee doesn't meet the recommendations of an NRC advisory.

Because an NRC advisory is a communication tool rather than an enforcement mechanism, the NRC issued two legally binding Orders to licensees transporting RAMQC. One Order requires licensees to put in place additional security measures for the transport of Category 2 quantities of radioactive material. These requirements are part of the increased controls security enhancements for Category 2 quantities of radioactive materials. The second Order requires licensees to implement additional security measures for transporting Category 1 quantities of material. The second Order is not publicly available because it includes detailed security requirements that are designated as Safeguards Information.

Although the security Order is legally binding on licensees, the NRC is committed to keeping the public informed and values public involvement in our regulatory process. By its nature, the rulemaking process is deliberative and takes substantial time. The process is now started and the first step in this process is for the staff to prepare a technical basis. The technical basis is a document that identifies the regulations the staff agrees need to be revised. Once the technical basis is complete, the staff will then prepare a draft proposed rule using the technical basis to develop the proposed language for the new rule. The draft proposed rule will also be published for public comment. After all the public comments are resolved, the final rule is published.

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As mentioned earlier, this is the first step of the process to revise the NRC regulations to improve transportation security for RAMQC. This first step consists of writing the technical basis and during this step we have gathered input from stakeholders. Using the security Orders as a basis, the general requirements enhancing security during transportation of RAMQC are provided in Figure 2. The requirements are categorized by their major attributes: (A) licensee verification; (B) planning and coordination; (C) notifications; (D) communications; (E) drivers and accompanying individuals; (F) procedures, training and control of information; and (G) additional requirements for portable and mobile devices.

Figure 2
General Requirements for Security During Transport of RAMQC
Requirement RAMQC
Category 1
Category 2
A. Licensee Verification
1 Verify recipients are authorized to receive regulated material by direct contact with regulatory authority1 Yes Check Mark  
2 Confirm validity of unusual orders Yes Check Mark  
3 Verify the address for a temporary work site is valid Yes Check Mark  
B. Planning and Coordination
1 Coordinate expected departure time of the shipment Yes Check Mark  
2 Coordinate expected arrival time of the shipment Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
3 Confirm receipt of the shipment Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
4 Use carriers which:    
(a) Use package tracking systems. (Package tracking systems can identify the location of package when queried, however they are not necessarily active monitoring of the package. For example, the U.S. registered mail program is a package tracking system.)   Yes Check Mark
(b) Have continuous and active monitoring systems Yes Check Mark  
(c) Assure trustworthiness and reliability of drivers Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
(d) Assure trustworthiness and reliability of personnel with knowledge of the shipment Yes Check Mark  
(e) Maintain constant control or surveillance during transit Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
(f) Have capability for immediate communication to summon appropriate response or assistance Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
5 Pre-plan and coordinate shipment with States through which the shipment will pass. Yes Check Mark  
C. Notifications
1 Provide at least 7 days advance notification of the shipment to the NRC and the States through which the shipment will pass. Yes Check Mark  
2 If the shipment does not arrive at the expected arrival time, initiate an investigation to find it. Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
3 If the shipment has become lost, stolen, or missing:    
(a) Immediately notify the NRC Operations Center. Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
(b) Immediately notify the local law enforcement agencies and the appropriate Agreement State regulatory authority Yes Check Mark  
D. Communications
1 Establish redundant communications allowing the transport to contact communication center at all times. Yes Check Mark  
2 Ensure back-up communications are not subject to the same interference factors as the primary communication. Yes Check Mark  
3 Ensure shipments are continuously and actively monitored by a telemetric position monitoring system or an alternative tracking system reporting to a communication center.2 Yes Check Mark  
4 Communication center provides positive confirmation of location, status and control over the shipment. Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
5 Communication center prepared to implement pre-planned procedures in response to events. Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
E. Drivers and Accompanying Individuals
1 Report into the communication center at regular, pre-set intervals. Yes Check Mark  
2 no casual stops during transport Yes Check Mark  
3 If stopped, perform checks to monitor the shipment Yes Check Mark  
F. Procedures, Training and Control of Information
1 Develop, maintain and implement policies and procedures for proper handling and protection against unauthorized disclosure of transportation security information. Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
2 Develop normal and contingency procedures to cover; notifications, communications protocols, loss of communications, and response to actual, attempted, or suspicious activities related to theft, loss, diversion or sabotage of a shipment. Yes Check Mark Yes Check Mark
3 Designate detailed security information as Safeguards Information. Yes Check Mark  
G. Additional requirements for portable and mobile devices
1 All the requirements of above plus N/A3 Yes Check Mark
2 Have two independent physical controls that form tangible barriers to secure the material from unauthorized removal when the device is not under direct control and constant surveillance by the licensee. NA Yes Check Mark
3 For devices in or on a vehicle or trailer. Licensees shall also use a method to disable the vehicle or trailer when not under direct control and constant surveillance by the licensee. NA Yes Check Mark


  1. In accordance with 10 CFR Part 20, licensees are required to verify that their customers are authorized to possess the material. However, this verification could be by means other than by direct contact with the regulatory authority.
  2. A licensee may use a carrier or third-party communication center in lieu of establishing one itself. A commercial facility must have the capabilities, necessary procedures, training, and personnel background investigations to meet the applicable requirement
  3. Portable or mobile devices are within RAMQC Category 2.

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Date Description
01/15/2008 Transcript public meeting, Lisle, IL
01/17/2008 Transcript public meeting, Oakland, CA
01/23/2008 Transcript public meeting, Rockville, MD

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, August 11, 2017