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Enhancing Cradle-to-Grave Management of Radioactive Sources Worldwide


National inventory of DSRS in storage, awaiting disposal. (Photo: IAEA).

Radioactive sources are used all over the world for many beneficial purposes in areas such as health, industry, research and agriculture. These sources are usually managed safely and securely while in use. However, many countries experience challenges in managing these sources once they reach the end of their useful lives - that is, when they no longer emit sufficient radiation for the purpose for which they were intended, but remain radioactive and in need of special management as ‘disused sources’ The various management options for disused sources, which include return to the supplier, recycling, reuse or disposal, should be incorporated into national policies and strategies for radiation safety and radioactive waste management that cover Sealed Radioactive Sources (SRS) and Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources (DSRS).

The IAEA, through its technical cooperation programme, is currently implementing an interregional project[1] that aims to help Member States from all over the world to enhance their capacities and capabilities to manage SRS and DSRS according to international standards and best practices.

National inventories of SRS and DSRS are key to ensuring comprehensive cradle-to-grave management of radioactive sources.  This is particularly important at the end of the lifecycle, when there are higher risks of sources falling out of regulatory control. An interregional training course, organized under the umbrella of the current interregional project, has taken place in Havana, Cuba, from 5 to 9 June 2017. Thirty participants from 22 countries received guidance and were trained in methodologies to establish and maintain a national inventory of radioactive sources. The training course was designed to increase participants’ knowledge of IAEA safety, security and waste management guidance as it relates to national inventories. The training course also enabled participants to discuss national experiences and best practices, and to learn from one another.

A further meeting under the same project was held the following week, from 12 to 16 June 2017, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On this occasion, 29 participants from 19 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered to discuss the safety case (the collection of arguments and evidence in support of the safety of a facility or activity) for DSRS management activities and disposal facilities. The attendees were from national regulatory authorities and waste management operators. They discussed the development and review of the long-term safety aspects of a safety case for DSRS disposal, and also examined operational and technical aspects. Through the meeting, the participants gained a better understanding of the options for sustainable management of DSRS. The discussion also helped participants to develop a clear understanding of the concept of the safety case for DSRS disposal, to increase their knowledge of the methods used in safety assessments, particularly for the post-closure period, and to explore approaches to, and possible processes for, conducting regulatory assessments and reviews of the safety case. As the inventory of DSRS that cannot be recycled or otherwise dealt with gradually increases, countries need to develop and implement plans for their disposal. Some of the participating countries are planning to implement disposal in 2018 using the IAEA Borehole Disposal System (BDS), and this meeting represented a great opportunity to share their national experiences.

INT9182 helps participating Member States to strengthen their national capacities and capabilities to manage Sealed Radioactive Sources, while following a harmonized approach based on the IAEA Safety Standards. The project receives extensive technical and financial support from the European Union, Spain and the United States.


[1] INT9182, ‘Sustaining Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources’.




Project INT9182 is carried out with funding by the European Union and the IAEA.




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