USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #17-0114

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: PHI.Inc

Individual Name: Mr. Terry Myer

Location State: LA Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

February 27, 2018

Mr. Terry R. Myers
Director of Operations
PHI Inc.
2001 Evangiline Thruway
Lafayette LA 70508-0808

Reference No. 17-0114

Dear Mr. Myers:

This letter is in response to your October 5, 2017, letter requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to shipment of radioactive materials by air.

We have paraphrased and answered your questions as follows:

Q1: You ask if drilling mud would be exempt from the HMR under the Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) exception in § 173.401.

A1: The answer is no. The NORM exception in § 173.401(b)(4) includes "natural material and ores containing naturally occurring radionuclides which...have only been processed for purposes other than for extraction of the radionuclides." The term “natural material" in § 173.401(b)(4) means material existing in a form as it would otherwise be in nature, not in a form manipulated by human application.

Therefore, the exception in § 173.401(b)(4) does not apply, and the waste material is subject to the HMR if the activity concentration of the radionuclides in the waste material and the total activity in the consignment exceed the values specified in § 173.436 or values derived according to the instructions in § 173.433. See the definition of radioactive material in § 173.403.

Q2: You ask if § 175.75(e)(3) allows for an x-ray technician and his or her assistant to accompany a piece of x-ray equipment shipped as "UN2916, Radioactive material, Type B (U) package non-fissile or fissile-excepted" by cargo-only aircraft.

A2: The answer is no. The provisions of § 175.75(e)(3) only apply to the transportation of hazardous materials carried on a single pilot cargo-only aircraft in which no person is carried on the aircraft other than the pilot, an FAA inspector, the shipper or consignee of the material, a representative of the shipper or consignee so designated in writing, or a person necessary for handling the material. Based on the scenario that you describe, PHMSA does not believe that the provisions of § 175.75(e)(3) would apply to the X-ray technician and his or her assistant.

Q3: You describe a scenario in which a shipment of "UN2910, Radioactive material, excepted package-limited quantity material" consists of a limited quantity shipment of Cesium 137 in a Type A package. You ask if a shipment of Cesium 137 with an activity level of 10 µCi per unit consisting of 4 total units is eligible for the limited quantity provisions in §§ 173.421 and 173.425.

A3: The answer is yes, provided the total activity in the package does not exceed 54 µCi and the package meets all of the requirements in §173.421.

Q4: You ask if the shipment described in Question Q3 needs a shipping paper to specify both the radioactive material as Cesium 137 and the activity level of 40 µCi for transport by air.

A4: The answer is yes. Since the material is shipped by aircraft, a shipping paper is required showing both the radionuclide and the activity level. (See 49 CFR § 172.202(a).)

Q5: You ask if a shipper may use a Type A package to transport a limited quantity radioactive material in an excepted package and still classify the material as "UN2910, Radioactive material, excepted package-limited quantity of material," and if there are any restrictions in using a Type A package as an excepted package.

A5: When shipping a limited quantity of a radioactive material in a Type A package, a shipper would be required to have a shipping paper showing both the radionuclide and the activity level as required by § 172.203(d). Alternatively, the shipper could cover up the markings indicating the package is a Type A package and not be required to have a shipping paper, provided the shipment is not by air.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.


T. Glenn Foster
Chief, Regulatory Review and Reinvention Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
172.202 Description of hazardous material on shipping papers
172.203 Additional description requirements
173.401 Scope
173.403 Definitions
173.421 Excepted packages for limited quantities of Class 7 (radioactive) materials