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IAEA Guidance on Managing Disused Radioactive Sources Now Available

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Disused radioactive sources stored at a waste storage facility in the United Kingdom. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources, endorsed by the 61st IAEA General Conference in September 2017, is now available via the IAEA’s web site. The document stands as supplementary guidance to the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, along with the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources.

Millions of radioactive sources are in use around the world in medicine, industry, agriculture and research. Sources may remain radioactive long after the end of their useful life so it is essential that they are safely managed and securely protected. The Code of Conduct and its supplementary documents foster management and protection by providing guidance on the development, harmonization and implementation of national policies, laws and regulations, as well as the promotion of international and regional cooperation among Member States.

“The Guidance promotes a more rigorous radiation safety and security culture, which will be further enhanced once Member States put the recommendations of the Guidance into practice,” said Hilaire Mansoux, Head of the IAEA’s Regulatory Infrastructure and Transport Safety Section.

The Guidance, which is not legally binding, describes a variety of options for the management and protection of disused radioactive sources and outlines the responsibilities of relevant parties, including regulatory bodies. It emphasises disposal as the final management option for disused sources and encourages countries to have national policies and strategies to manage disused radioactive sources in a safe and secure manner. It also contains provisions on bilateral relations, including advice on the return of sources in cases where such arrangements have been agreed.

Muhammed Khaliq, Head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Security of Materials and Facilities Section, noted that the Guidance, once applied, will strengthen nuclear security as well.

“The effective and continuous regulatory and management control of radioactive sources, from cradle to grave, is of utmost importance for the prevention of malicious acts with harmful radiological consequences,” he said.

Member States make what is called a political commitment to the Code and its supplementary guidance in an official letter to the IAEA, in which they affirm their decision to act in line with the recommendations. Of the IAEA’s 170 Member States, 137 have so far expressed commitment to the Code of Conduct and 114 to the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources.

The IAEA supports Member States in the implementation of the Code of Conduct and Guidance documents through projects and information exchange. This includes a formal process that was established in 2006. The first international meeting for the exchange of experience on the implementation of the Guidance on the Management of the Disused Radioactive Sources is planned for 2020 in Vienna.

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