Shipments of radioactive waste: supervision and control

Shipments of radioactive waste: supervision and control

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Shipments of radioactive waste: supervision and control


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Shipments of radioactive waste: supervision and control

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 2006/117/Euratom of 20 November 2006 on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel.


The Directive concerns the Member States’ application of a system of control and prior authorisation for shipments of radioactive waste* and spent fuel*. It provides for a compulsory and common system of notification and a standard control document.

The Directive covers shipments of radioactive waste or spent fuel which have a point of departure, transit or destination in an EU Member State if the quantities or concentration are over certain limits fixed by Directive 96/29/Euratom, Article 3(2)(a) and (b). It does not apply to the following cases:

  • shipments of sources being returned to a supplier, manufacturer or authorised installation;
  • shipments of radioactive substances recovered through reprocessing and destined for a different use;
  • shipments of natural radioactive substances which do not result from treatment.

The Directive allows Member States to ship spent fuel to another Member State for reprocessing, organise the return of radioactive waste after treatment to the country of origin and return shipments of radioactive substances which do not comply with the Directive to the country of origin.

Shipments of radioactive waste or spent fuel

To send a shipment of radioactive waste or spent fuel the holder must submit an application to the competent authorities in the country of origin. A single application may cover several shipments if the substances involved share the same characteristics and if the route (countries and borders crossed) and the competent authorities are the same.

Where waste is to be imported into the EU, the consignee must submit this application to the competent authorities of the country of destination. Where a shipment is made from a Member State to a third country, the competent authorities in the Member State of origin must contact the relevant authorities in the country of destination.

The shipment cannot be made until the competent authorities of the country of destination and of any country of transit have notified the competent authorities of the country of origin of their approval. The Directive stipulates a period of two months after receipt of the application for notification of approval or refusal. Refusal from a Member State of destination or transit must be justified with regard to the legislation on the shipment and management of radioactive waste or spent fuel.

The competent authorities in Member States of transit or destination may add conditions to the shipment. Nevertheless, for shipments within the Community, it is not possible to lay down conditions which are more stringent than those laid down by the national law of a Member State on the shipment of radioactive waste on its own territory.

The Directive prohibits the export of radioactive waste to African, Caribbean or Pacific (ACP) countries, in line with the Cotonou Agreement, to a destination south of latitude 60 south or to a third country which does not have the resources to manage the radioactive waste safely.

If the conditions applying to the shipment are not complied with or the shipment cannot be completed, a competent authority may decide that the radioactive waste must be returned to the holder if no safe alternative can be found.

A standard document is to be used for all shipments falling within the scope of the Directive. The model of the document and its annexes is to be drawn up by the Commission and published on 25 December 2008 at the latest.

The Commission is regularly to present summary reports on the implementation of this Directive to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee based on the Member States’ reports.


From 25 December 2008 the Directive revokes and replaces Directive 92/3/Euratom, primarily in order to:

  • ensure coherence with other Euratom Directives, including the Directive which this amends and Directive 2003/122/Euratom, and with international conventions;
  • clarify the procedure (amendment and addition of definitions, removal of inconsistencies, simplification of the procedure between Member States, clarification of the use of languages, etc.);
  • extend the scope to spent fuel, whether or not it is intended for reprocessing.
Key terms used in the act
  • Radioactive waste: radioactive material in gaseous, liquid or solid form for which no further use is foreseen by the countries of origin or destination, and which is controlled as radioactive waste by a regulatory body in the countries of origin and destination.
  • Spent fuel: nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in and permanently removed from a reactor core. Spent fuel may either be considered as a usable resource that can be reprocessed, or be destined for final disposal with no further use foreseen and treated as radioactive waste.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2006/117/Euratom 25.12.2006 25.12.2008 OJ L 337 of 20.11.2006

Related Acts

Commission Recommendation 2008/956/Euratom of 4 December 2008 on criteria for the export of radioactive waste and spent fuel to third countries [Official Journal L338 of 17.12.2008].

The Commission makes recommendations relating to the main requirements applicable to the export of radioactive waste and spent fuel to third countries, concerning in particular radiological protection for workers and the general public, the preparation of emergency plans, the safety of waste management and the setting up of regulatory authorities being in charge of issuing licences and carrying out inspections.
The Commission also lists criteria that should be taken into consideration by Member States to evaluate whether the requirements have been met, including International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) membership, signature and ratification of conventions on radioactive waste and spent fuels and in particular the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, and compliance with the provisions of international instruments concerning transport safety of dangerous goods (the SOLAS and Chicago Conventions).

Commission Decision of 5 March 2008 establishing the standard document for the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel referred to in Council Directive 2006/117/Euratom [Official Journal L 107 of 17.4.2008].

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