The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to enhance their cooperation around the transportation of radioactive materials by air, notably to improve the efficiency and speed of these shipments that are vital for cancer care and other medical uses around the world.
In a joint statement signed on November 10, ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi underscored that the agreement also “highlights the importance of adherence to the IAEA safety standards for the safe use of radioactive materials and to ICAO standards for global civil aviation safety and security.”
The agreement builds on the cooperation between both UN bodies on matters of common interest that began in 1960. It now encompasses the development and review of relevant IAEA safety standards and the harmonization of best practices globally, with the IAEA and ICAO collaborating to collect and analyze associated information.
Getting radiopharmaceuticals from the manufacturer to hospitals and medical clinics depends on fast and reliable transportation, including by air, as they are extremely time sensitive. Over 10,000 hospitals worldwide use radioisotopes in medicine, mostly for diagnosis.
“The IAEA’s role in ensuring the safe transport of radioactive material by air is essential in the carriage of short-lived radiopharmaceuticals and other crucial radioactive materials,” remarked Salazar. “ICAO welcomes the heightening of our collaboration in this vitally important area of mutual interest.”
The IAEA’s Grossi said, “It is very important that the work the IAEA and ICAO undertake in developing and strengthening the implementation of international standards is complementary. The IAEA greatly values ICAO’s long-standing contribution to the development and review of IAEA safety standards. We can work even more closely together in other areas of common interest, such as in reducing denials of, and delays in, shipment of radioactive material by air.”
Raising stakeholder awareness through education, training and outreach, including around emergency preparedness, are also included in the agreement, as is radiation research and information exchange toward radiation protection in civil aviation, especially regarding cosmic radiation exposure to flight crews.
Salazar and Grossi also alluded to even deeper collaboration in the future.