Countries Work to End Radium’s "Hot" Legacy
A radium source on the end of its needle-like applicator. It was once used to shrink cancerous lymphoid tissues in patients. (Photo Credits and Copyright 1999: Oak Ridge Associated Universities)
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- Taking Charge in Chile
- Finding Homes for "Orphan" Sources
- IAEA Programme on Disused Sources
- Keeping Radiation Sources Under Control
- Safety & Security of Radiation Sources
- IAEA Technical Cooperation
- IAEA Features: Controlling Radiation Sources
- Radium’s History, US Perspective [pdf]
Stopping radioactive sources from falling into wrong hands is a top international priority at the IAEA. People can get seriously injured from mishandling or breaking open a sealed “hot” source, and sometimes they can die from overexposure to it. A sealed radioactive source is a small device containing encapsulated radioactive material, which usually has the appearance of a small, harmless piece of metal. That’s mainly why such sources can end up in the hands of curious children, or in scrapyards where they have been wrongly or inadvertently dumped. And while it fortunately has not happened yet, the chance of a radioactive source being used for spiking “dirty bombs” feeds public fears about terrorist threats.
Radium is among the sealed sources that the IAEA is helping countries to track down and safely control. Once widely used for medical purposes and valued at more than $100,000 per gram, radium sources are no longer in demand and their use is limited. But thousands of older “disused” sources remain behind, requiring proper control, packaging, and disposal. Many developing countries have joined forces through the IAEA to upgrade their capabilities to manage radium and other sealed sources that are no longer being used.
Among these countries is Chile, where authorities have worked to end radium’s hot legacy. The IAEA’s Kirstie Hansen reports on work being done there, and on the help being provided by Agency experts through technical cooperation and assistance projects.
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