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»Radioactive Materials Transported by Cargo Ship

This page describes radioactive materials being transported by cargo ships into the United States.


Almost half of incoming cargo to the United States arrives by containers onboard ships. Within the U.S., American merchant marine ships provide essential services to 41 states. While the chances of a transportation accident are small, an accident can result in expensive cleanup or unnecessary exposure of workers or the public. Since we cannot predict transportation accidents, strict packaging requirements are used in the shipment of radioactive material to ensure that even if there is an accident, radioactive material spills or releases do not occur.

Radioactive materials that are used in medical applications – radio pharmaceuticals and radioisotopes – are the most frequently shipped radioactive materials in the United States. Other shipments include low- and high-level radioactive waste; uranium fuel for nuclear power plants; and various gauges and devices for industrial, medical and academic institutions.