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Radioactive Materials: Shipping

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 26 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what minimum safety and security requirements apply to vessels carrying nuclear material by sea for a distance of (a) less and (b) more than 500 miles. (195858)

[holding answer 20 March 2008]: The security of nuclear material on board a UK-flagged vessel is regulated by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) in accordance with the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003 (NISR). These regulations, which ensure that the UK’s obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection on Nuclear Material (CPPNM) are met and which take full account of international recommendations in this area, are supplemented by a Technical Requirements Document which details minimum security standards. This document is protectively marked; it is not Government policy to release precise details of security measures since this information could be of use to those with malicious intent.

In terms of security arrangements for the transport of nuclear material, distance is not the factor which sets the level of security. The overall security posture will be dictated by the category of the material being carried and the threat pertaining. The mode(s) of transport, packages to be used and other physical, procedural and administrative measures based on the principles of defence-in-depth and graded approach will also be relevant in designing a security system combining deterrence, detection, delay and response measures, complemented by other measures for mitigating the consequences of malicious acts, including recovery and for minimizing the radiological consequences of any theft, sabotage or other malicious act.

Vessels transporting nuclear material by sea are required to operate in compliance with the requirements of prevailing international law on the safety of ships, most notably the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS, found at Additionally they are required to comply with supplementary measures contained in the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Packaged Irradiated Fuel, Plutonium and High Level Radioactive Wastes on board ships (the INF code, found at ?topic_id=354) which deal specifically with the carriage of nuclear material.