... Largest uranium resources in the world ... Best practice worker and public health management ... Best practice product transportation management ... Supporting world’s best non-proliferation safeguards ... Positioned for strong nuclear energy growth in our region ... Facilitating clean, low emissions electricity production for an energy scarce world

Transport


IS URANIUM HARMFUL?

At the mine uranium ore is processed to make uranium oxide concentrate (UOC), which is often called ‘yellowcake’. UOC is only weakly radioactive and is chemically toxic. Also, UOC is chemically and physically stable and cannot explode.

UOC is only harmful to humans if it is inhaled or eaten, so all workers involved in packing and transporting uranium must be trained for their jobs. They take safety precautions, by wearing special overalls, a dust mask and gloves so they do not accidently breath in or swallow any UOC dust. The workshop where they pack the UOC is kept very clean.

HOW IS URANIUM PACKED?

Australian uranium is transported around the world by road, rail, and sea. The journey starts at the mine where the UOC is put into 200 litre steel drums. Each drum weighs between 300-400 kg. There is little radiation risk when UOC is packed for transport. The drums are inspected to check they are tightly sealed when they are moved.

The drums are carefully tied down with kevlar-straps and packed into shipping containers that are locked, sealed and secured at the mine site. Every year around 50 shipments of 500 containers of Australian uranium are safely transported by road and rail to ports in Adelaide and Darwin where they are shipped.  The containers are locked and are not opened, unless for official inspections, until they reach their overseas destination for processing before delivery to companies around the world.

WHAT IF THERE IS A SPILL?

Because uranium is only weakly radioactive, the radioactivity is not the highest priority that has to be dealt with in an accident resulting in a spill. Emergency authorities deal with all problems created by an accident in the same way they would with any accident involving a hazardous material.

Should a spill of UOC occur, people helping to clean it up would wear dust masks and gloves to prevent inhalation of UOC. Avoiding skin contact is also important.

Uranium is a low-volume, high-value product.  It has been transported in Australia from mines to ports for export for more than 30 years.

The two current points of exit are Darwin and Adelaide.  Uranium is transported by road from the Ranger mine (Northern Territory) and from the Olympic Dam, Beverley and Honeymoon mines in South Australia to those ports.  The transport routes followed are the normal routes for commercial transport.

Since the early 1980s, more than 6,800 containers of uranium from the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, over 3,600 from Olympic Dam in South Australia and 583 from the Beverley uranium mine, also in South Australia, have been transported to ports at Adelaide or Darwin with no incidents involving a spillage of uranium oxide over that period.

There have been no uranium transport incidents that have posed any risk to public health or to the environment.

HOW IS TRANSPORT REGULATED?

Radioactive material is transported under national and international rules developed by experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency has adopted the IAEA’s regulations. These regulations are used by all jurisdictions in Australia, and make sure there are high safety standards.

Each company must have an Individual Transport Plan approved, and have a ‘Permit to Possess Nuclear Material’ or ‘Permit to Transport Nuclear Material’ from the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO). Companies also need an ‘Export Permission’ from the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. Companies are also inspected by State Health and Safety Regulators. These systems work together to ensure UOC is safely and securely shipped.

GUIDELINES AND INFORMATION FOR TRANSPORT AND SHIPPING OF URANIUM

IAEA Safety Standards – Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material – 2012 Edition. The IAEA safety standards have a status derived from the IAEA’s Statute, which authorizes the agency to establish standards of safety for nuclear and radiation related facilities and activities and to provide for their application. The safety standards reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment.

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) – Safe Transport of Radioactive Material 2008. Information to assist companies or organisations seeking approval to transport radioactive material within Australia.

Uranium Council Guide to Safe Transport of Uranium Oxide Concentrate. This guide is a consolidation of widely adopted and applied procedures for the safe transport of UOC and is consistent with the ARPANSA Code of Practice for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material (2008). Government and industry experts guided its development and it is an important reference for all stakeholders. This guide provides best practice advice on radiation protection, packaging and labelling standards, and emergency response procedures.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE

The guiding principles provide a framework from which individual companies can develop their own respective emergency response plans.

Guiding principles for Uranium Oxide Concentrates emergency response