Over a Hundred Disused Sealed Sources Collected in Honduras

A radium source 226Ra was recovered from the
radiotherapy service at Hospital San Felipe.

2 April 2012 | With support from the IAEA, 124 disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) were recovered in Honduras and moved from different premises to the country’s central storage facility. Many of the sources had been used in medical care.

The collected DSRS were categorized, separated and all are ready for further handling and processing operations.

The project started last June, when experts of the IAEA’s Waste Technology Section travelled to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, to provide operational assistance in removing and transferring DSRS.

“We dismantled, for example, an old radiotherapy device, recovered and packaged radioactive sources from two scrap metal companies and even recovered and removed old brachytherapy tubes from a private house”, explained Julia Whitworth, a source management expert of the Waste Technology Section.

Prior to the mission, experts from different IAEA Departments — the Waste Technology Section in the Department of Nuclear Energy, Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety in the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, and Division of Latin America in the Department of Technical Cooperation — had assisted Honduras in the licensing process of the storage facility and preparing the DSRS recovery operation.

The operators of the storage facility developed working procedures for DSRS recovery and proper record keeping for the management of DSRS, which were approved by the regulator.

Also, a safety analysis report and documentation for licensing the central storage facility were prepared and approved. The national regulatory authority authorized the DSRS recovery operation and the storage facility. Finally, the storage conditions were improved and the facility was prepared to receive the sources.

Substantial Improvements in Safety and Security

“The joint effort not only led to the licensing of the central storage facility; we were also able to help Honduras remove and transfer all low activity sources of category 3–5 to the central storage facility”, said Juan Carlos Benitez Navarro, who is also a source management expert in the Waste Technology Section.

In the next phase, high activity sources (category 1–2) will be removed. The sources will be either returned to the country of origin or to another country for recycling and reuse. This project is already underway, and when completed, the safety and security of all DSRS in Honduras will be substantially improved.

Contact: Julia Whitworth and Juan Carlos Benitez Navarro, IAEA Waste Technology Section

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