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Minimizing Hidden Risks, From Cradle to Grave: IAEA Helps Member States Manage Orphan Sources

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Course participants familiarizing themselves with radiation detection instruments. (Photo: Ethiopian Radiation Protection Authority)

Nuclear technologies involving the use of sealed radioactive sources have useful applications in many fields, including agriculture, education, industry, research, and medicine. When radioactive sources are properly controlled and managed, they pose no risk to people or the environment. When sources fall outside regulatory control or are ‘orphaned’—due to abandonment, misplacement, theft or unauthorized transfer — they could pose serious risk to people and the environment.

Through its technical cooperation (TC) programme, the IAEA strives to minimize this risk by increasing worldwide awareness about orphan sources and providing hands-on training to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of both regulators and operators to manage them.

Within the framework of an ongoing IAEA interregional TC project entitled ‘Sustaining Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources’, a training course on orphan sources management took place from 17 to 21 December 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Twenty-six participants from 15 IAEA Member States acquired the theoretical knowledge and hands-on training necessary to perform orphan source searches in a safe and comprehensive manner. The course covered elements of search and recovery from regulatory, practical and operational perspectives, and demonstrated proper handling of potential orphan sources using radiation detection equipment.

By bringing operators and regulators together, we build better synergies at the national level. The trainees now know how to act should they find an orphan source in their country.
Dariusz Mroz, IAEA technical officer

Participants at the training course. (Photo: Ethiopian Radiation Protection Authority)

The training course was part of the cradle-to-grave approach to control of radioactive sources. “This comprehensive approach to the management of radioactive sources favours better collaboration between operators and regulators,” said IAEA technical officer Juan Carlos Benitez Navarro.

Dariusz Mroz, the project’s other technical officer, added, “By bringing operators and regulators together, we build better synergies at the national level. The trainees now know how to act should they find an orphan source in their country.”

Following the discovery of an orphan source, course participants characterize the source and survey the surrounding area. (Photo: Ethiopian Radiation Protection Authority)

Project INT9182 ‘Sustaining Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources’ is conducted by the IAEA, with co-funding from the European Union, Spain, and the United States of America.

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