Although most sealed radioactive sources have a relatively long life time, at some point they must be replaced. Most countries with nuclear power programmes have some capacity for long term storage of radioactive waste that could also be used for such disused sources. One of the major challenges facing countries without waste facilities is how to safely manage disused sources. Waste management must ensure that sources can be kept secure without risk of loss, theft or accident over very long time periods. Source management includes conditioning the source, checking the status of the source regularly and keeping records of all transactions by the waste operator.
The importation of a source creates a long term obligation to manage the source when it no longer has a useful purpose, both for the importer and for the regulatory authority. If the source cannot be returned to the supplier the waste operator should condition the sources and store them in a secure central facility. Some manufacturers may be willing to take back sources they supplied. Final disposal of sources in a licensed disposal site is the ultimate solution.