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Experts Commit to Strengthening Implementation of IAEA Guidance on Import and Export of Radioactive Sources

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Over 150 representatives from 86 countries agreed at a meeting last week that the implementation of the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources was effective and concluded that a revision may not be required.

The Guidance is a non-legally binding document that supplements the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. The document was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors and endorsed by the IAEA General Conference in 2004 and revised in 2011. It provides recommendations and details best practices for the import and export of radioactive sources. It aims to help reduce the risk of these sources falling outside regulatory control – i.e. getting lost or stolen and presenting a danger to people and the environment. The Guidance details the relationship between an importing and exporting country and outlines what may be required on both a technical and administrative level for the proper international transfer of a radioactive source.  

The voluntary implementation of this Guidance, to which 114 countries have committed to thus far, has helped countries improve the safety and security of radioactive sources in their import/export practices. Political commitments to the Code and the Guidance are made in the form of an official letter to the IAEA.    

“Political commitment to the Guidance is a major step. Establishing legislative requirements for the import and export of radioactive sources is another important step,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, Deputy Director General and Head of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “And ultimately, the key is in implementation.”

The review meeting, held from 11 to 13 June, had two main objectives: to share experience in both the import and export of radioactive sources and to assess whether there was a need to revise the existing Guidance document. Participants concluded that the document did not need a revision but strengthening the implementation of the already established Guidance at national level and expanding Member States’ commitment would be sufficient.

“Rather than introducing any additional provisions or otherwise modifying the Guidance document, representatives agreed to take steps to implement the full range of provisions contained within it,” said Olga Makarovska, an IAEA Senior Radiation Safety Specialist and one of the scientific secretaries for the meeting, responsible for safety aspects. Incorporating the Guidance into national regulatory frameworks is one way to strengthen implementation, and this point was affirmed during the meeting, she added.

Fabien Feron, Director of the French Nuclear Safety Authority and Chairman of the meeting, identified several other recommendations for future action on improving import/export practices based on discussions during the meeting. He underlined the effectiveness of countries establishing bilateral arrangements between their respective authorities on the import and export of radioactive sources, particularly if import/export operations are done on a regular basis. Read the Chairman's full report here.

While closing the meeting, Muhammed Khaliq, Head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Security of Materials and Facilities Section, reiterated that the implementation of the Guidance greatly contributes to strengthening nuclear safety and security worldwide.

Review meetings on Guidance implementation are held approximately every five years. The previous meeting was held in 2012.  The 2018 meeting was organized with the support of Canada and the United States.

Countries should establish bilateral arrangements between respective bodies on the import and export of radioactive sources, particularly if import/export operations are done on a regular basis.
Fabien Feron, Director, French Nuclear Safety Authority

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