[holding answer 26 October 2006]: The figures for tonnage are not held by the Department. However, in the financial years 1996-97 and 1997-98 goods moved by rail freight in Great Britain totalled 15.1 and 16.9 billion tonne kilometres, respectively. And in 2005-06 the equivalent figure was 22.11 billion tonne kilometres. These figures are published in "Rail Trends" by the Office of Rail Regulation, which is on its website www.rail-reg.gov.uk. A copy of this document is held in the House Library. This information supersedes my answer of 17 October 2006, Official Report, column 1128W.
The event at Sunderland was a minor incident that did not endanger the flask, its contents, the public or the environment in any way. There were no nuclear safety implications and therefore no reason for any investigation over and above any which the organisations involved would routinely carry out following abnormal events.
The transport of radioactive material, including irradiated nuclear fuel, is governed by the stringent internationally-agreed standards recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency appointed by the United Nations to oversee all aspects of the peaceful uses of atomic energy worldwide. During the period of over 40 years that the IAEA Regulations have been in existence, there has been no instance of death or serious injury to persons, nor significant damage to the environment, from radiological effects caused during the transport of radioactive material worldwide by all modes of transport when properly packaged and transported in conformity with these Regulations.
Irradiated nuclear fuel flasks are designed to withstand a very severe impact followed by severe fire. The safety of these movements is therefore secured by the design and build quality of the flasks used and not by the particular mode of transport used or route travelled.