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IAEA Kicks Off Multi-Regional Project on Sustainable Management of Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources

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Representatives of national regulatory authorities and operators of storage design a workplan for cooperation on long-term management of DSRS. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

A three-year IAEA project that supports 11 Latin American, African and Pacific countries in efforts to enhance their nuclear security and radiation safety through the sustainable management of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) was recently launched with a meeting in Vienna.

Representatives of national regulatory authorities and operators of storage facilities finalized a workplan for cooperation on long-term management of DSRS during the 29-30 April meeting. As part of this workplan, the IAEA will provide comprehensive assistance for managing sealed radioactive sources which is no longer used and is not intended to be used in facilities and activities for which authorization has been granted.

“Disused sealed radioactive sources can remain radioactive for a long time and present both security and safety challenges, regardless of the size and scope of the country’s programme,” said Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security.  “Appropriate management of these sources helps protect against accidental radiation exposure and intentional use for malicious purposes.”

At the meeting, IAEA experts introduced different management options for DSRS in line with the IAEA Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources, which supplements the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. Participants identified proper physical protection measures to keep the sources secure and selected appropriate management options for their countries.

As part of the project, the IAEA will assist participating countries in their initiatives to establish and update national inventories of DSRS of all categories, to strengthen regulatory frameworks in line with international guidance, to develop strategies for DSRS management and to build capacity among regulators and operators of storage and disposal facilities. If requested, the IAEA will also assist with the return of sources to a supplier, should project participants consider this as the best management option for reduction of risk.

Vivian Pereira, Head of Department Radiation Protection Services at the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission, said that Chile found return of DSRS to suppliers is an optimal choice because of the inventory and limited storage capacity.

“For Chile, participation in this project is a real possibility to improve radiation safety and security of our facilities through advisory and expert missions and hands-on training of our regulators and operators,” she added.

IAEA Nuclear Security Officer Gert Liebenberg said the comprehensive approach of the project, which covers all stages of DSRS management, would help the participating countries – Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Madagascar, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia- build sustainable capacity for strong radioactive source management during and after use.

“Sealed radioactive sources, whether used in a hospital or in industrial practices, are most vulnerable at the end of their useful life,” said Mr Liebenberg.“In many instances shielded sources are stored at the places they were used or at centralized storage facilities - these storage conditions are sometimes not sufficiently secure to keep potential adversaries out.”

The project, supported by the Canadian Government through the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund, was developed and launched in response to requests from Member States through their Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans (INSSP). It complements other IAEA initiatives including the Regulatory Infrastructure Development Project in Latin America and the Caribbean, and an IAEA technical cooperation project on sustaining cradle-to-grave control of radioactive sources.

 

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