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Introduction: The Sealed Radioactive Sources
At the national level, several government agencies may be involved in the importation, use, transport, and disposal of sealed radioactive sources. Those working at such agencies and policy makers in general need to be aware of the safety and security issues that could arise from the use of sealed sources.
In medical settings, those using sealed radioactive sources need to be
trained in and knowledgeable about radiation protection. But they may
be less familiar with broader issues that can affect safety and security,
such as long term management and appropriate disposal of sources. These
users could also benefit from lessons learned from previous accidents.
Users in industrial settings are the most diverse and may have varying levels of training regarding the safe use of sealed radioactive sources. To prevent accidents, users need information about good safety practices, as well as security issues and the potential implications should a source be lost. These users could also benefit from lessons learned from previous accidents.
Because improperly managed sources have often ended up as scrap metal, those working in the scrap metal industry need to be informed of the potential risks, trained how to recognize the trefoil radiation symbol and trained in what to do should they find a source.
Improperly managed sources pose a risk to members of the general public who may find them, but are unaware of the potential danger.
The toolkit is a starting point for communication on safety and security matters relating to sealed radioactive sources. Additional information referenced in the fact sheet under “Key Publications” is available from the IAEA.
The toolkit contains:
These elements could be used as the basis for a presentation or training session, or simply given out to these groups.
To be effective, communications is a two-way process where information is exchanged between both parties (a sender and a receiver). It is important, therefore, for the communicator to listen and respond to sensitivities, concerns or questions that may be raised. It may be possible to anticipate some of these in advance, and to some extent, these have been considered in the various elements of the toolkit. However, communications will always be a dynamic process, so those who are communicating should be:
respectful to the audience;
knowledgeable about the subject matter and able to answer questions;
able to simplify scientific and technical concepts into plain language that can easily be understood;
at ease dealing with the public;
honest and sensitive to concerns that might be raised; and
able to follow up if needed.
The IAEA TECDOC-1076: Communications on nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety: a practical handbook provides useful information towards improving communications.
IAEA TECDOC-1205: Management for the prevention of accidents from
disused sealed radioactive sources is an important reference document.
The toolkit provides only an introduction to the wealth of the information
available from the IAEA. The IAEA produces Safety Standards and technical
documents that provide technical information on a wide range of subjects
related to sealed sources. These documents are available online
While most countries may have national and local plans to deal with accidents relating to radioactive materials, experience has shown that even localized events can raise international concerns and enquiries from the media. Preparation for an emergency, therefore, may involve planning beyond national or local boundaries and must include how to communicate effectively. Elements of the toolkit may provide useful information for this purpose.
Two international conventions exist to help facilitate exchange of
information and provision of assistance in the event of an accident:
the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (the “Early Notification Convention”) and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (the “Assistance Convention”). Most IAEA Member States are parties to these two conventions. www.iaea.org/Publications/ Documents/index.html
To notify the IAEA of an emergency, parties to these
conventions should contact (by phone) +43 1 26026 3911 or
(by fax) +43 1 26007-29000.