Issues for Government Agencies

Government Infrastructure

Sealed radioactive sources are manufactured in only a small number of countries, but because of their wide range of uses, they are used in virtually all countries of the world. Manufacturers that make sealed sources must comply with their government’s regulation and inspection programmes. Governments of importing countries must ensure that the sealed sources meet their national laws and regulations. If regulations do not exist, the sealed source might be imported without any type of regulatory control over its use, safety, security and appropriate disposal.

To minimize such risks, national authorities must have an infrastructure with:

  • laws and regulations for the importation, use and disposal of sealed radioactive sources;

  • a regulatory authority to authorize work with sealed sources, inspect facilities where sealed sources are used and enforce the regulations;

  • an appropriate registry of sources; and

  • the capacity to respond to an accident or a lost or stolen sealed source.

Users are responsible for complying with the laws and regulations governing safe and secure use and storage of sources.

Laws and Regulations

Comprehensive national laws and regulations need to be in place to establish requirements for the safe and secure use of sealed radioactive sources. Laws provide for the establishment of the legal authority through which a national regulatory authority can be established to authorize, inspect and enforce compliance with regulations that control the sale, import, export, use and disposal of sealed sources. These regulations may specify the type of facility or individual permitted to possess and use a sealed source and may require all users to obtain an authorization for their possession and use of a source. The authorization process specifies the education and training required for those responsible for the sources and the requirements that a facility must meet with respect to physical security over the source to prevent its loss or unauthorized transfer. Procedures that must be in place for monitoring radiation when the source is stored, used or transported. The user must notify the regulatory authority of any changes in use of sources at the facility (including when sources are removed from active use).

A "Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources" has been established by the IAEA as a non-binding international instrument aimed primarily at governments, with the objective of achieving a high level of safety and security of radioactive sources through the national policies, laws and regulations, and international
co-operation.

Regulatory Authority

A regulatory authority is normally empowered to authorize and inspect regulated activities and to enforce laws and regulations. The regulatory authority needs to have adequate legal authority for its activities (either through laws or regulations), sufficiently trained staff, and a sufficient budget to undertake regular inspection of facilities. The size of the staff required is dependent on the number of facilities using sealed radioactive sources. Most countries in the world will have many facilities using sources in medical and industrial applications. Inspections are the primary means to verify safe practices. Over the years, numerous accidents have occurred when sources have been lost during industrial use, pipeline welding or road work, or when foreign contractors have abandoned sources used in mineral and gas exploration. Without an effective regulatory authority to inspect the facilities, there is a risk of similar accidents or theft harming people and the environment with radioactive contamination.

Inventory of Sources

In order to ensure that sources can be tracked throughout their lifetime, an inventory of high activity sealed radioactive sources should be established. Each facility using a sealed source should be required to maintain an inventory of high activity sources on its premises, and a national or regional inventory of sources should also be maintained by the regulatory authority to ensure that sources can be traced if ownership changes. Such an inventory can help maintain regulatory control of a source throughout its lifetime.


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