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IAEA Helps Enhance Management of Disused High Activity Radioactive Sources in Asia and the Pacific

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Participants of an IAEA training course practice the safe handling of highly radioactive disused sources, using manipulators of the Mobile Hot Cell, Taiyuan City, May 2017. (Photo: IAEA)

Professionals working in radioactive waste management in Asia and the Pacific acquired new skills at an IAEA training course, aimed at boosting their efforts to reduce risks to human health and the environment in their countries.

During the training course, held last week in Taiyuan City, China, 33 professionals from 18 Member States discussed practical experiences in implementing national strategies such as source repatriation, reuse, recycling and conditioning for safe disposal. Leading international experts in this field presented technical options for the safe management of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS).

Radioactive sources are used in a variety of devices in the medical, industrial and agricultural sectors. When they are no longer usable, they have to be removed and stored. Therefore, all countries using nuclear technologies have to make sure they have the ability to properly manage them.

“This training is extremely important for my country. We are planning to implement some of the presented solutions when we go back,” said Nanthavan Ya-anant from the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology.

Than Ho Quang from the Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology in Viet Nam added: “We are now ready to propose the most adequate strategy for the management of disused, high activity sources in Viet Nam.”

The hands-on training included a unique opportunity to practice using a Mobile Hot Cell (MHC), an effective technology for management of DSRS. The MHC is a specially designed chamber for removing radioactive sources from various devices and placing them into capsules for storage, transportation or final disposal. Due to high radioactivity, sources have to be taken out of their casings remotely, from the outside of the hot cell, using special manipulators.

Participants also discussed the Category 1 and 2 inventories in their countries and their plans to deal with these legacy sources. They also identified the needs of countries dealing with high activity sources, as well as developing recommendations for a subsequent action plan.

The five-day training course, organized in cooperation with the China Institute for Radiation Protection (CIRP), was a major milestone in the IAEA’s project for enhancing the radioactive waste management infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific Region.

This training is extremely important for my country. We are planning to implement some of the presented solutions when we go back.
Nanthavan Ya-anant, Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology

Building Capacities in Member States

A regional IAEA technical cooperation project, focusing on Radioactive Waste Management Infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific Region, is aimed at enhancing its Member States' capabilities in sustainable, safe and secure management of disused radioactive sources.

Since 2016, a wide range of technology transfer activities has been implemented to enhance capacities of Member States to establish and implement policy and strategy, upgrade radioactive waste management system and procedures, enhance regulatory frameworks, and to carry out safety assessment of storage and disposal facilities.

The project also fosters cooperation and is paving the way to build a community of good practice among the countries of Asia-Pacific Region and beyond.

Background

The MHC is a shielded chamber, which was initially manufactured by NECSA in 2007, based on an IAEA design. The original design of the chamber was the first of its kind in the world; two iterative models have since then been developed, including the Chinese MHC used during this regional training.

The purpose of the MHC is to facilitate direct recovery, handling, and conditioning of high-activity sources (Categories 1 and 2) in safe and secure conditions to facilitate storage or final disposal of DSRS. The MHC can be transported to any location in the world to undertake radioactive source conditioning campaigns. This makes the device particularly suitable for use by countries with smaller nuclear technology applications, as most of these countries lack the necessary, yet highly expensive and specialized facilities to process radioactive sources.

The Mobile Hot Cell technology has already been used to condition disused high activity sources in Brazil, Costa Rica, the Philippines, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Uruguay.

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