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New IAEA Service Conducts First Mission for Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources Technical Centres


Demonstrations of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) management are the main component of the DSRS Technical Centre peer review mission. (Photos: IAEA (left) and TINT (right))

Sealed radioactive sources are the key component in thousands of devices used worldwide in industry, medicine and agriculture. Sustainable management of these sources at the end of their working life is challenging, but a new IAEA service is expanding its support to countries in this critical task.

Last month in Thailand, the IAEA carried out the inaugural mission of the Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources Technical Centre peer review service, or DSRS TeC. This new service aims to enlarge the global pool of resources and support for countries in the sustainable management of DSRS. "Practical hands-on demonstrations of the DSRS management operations are a main component of the new mission, which also includes a review of procedures and work instructions, facilities, tools and equipment,” said Nora Zakaria, Head of the IAEA’s Waste Technology Section.

The inaugural DSRS-TeC mission, supported by funds from the United States of America, took place in Bangkok at the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT), from 18 to 21 July. “I found the mission’s unique approach beneficial to strengthening the practice of DSRS management. Although TINT has established quality management systems, the peer review mission brings added value by looking into the details of the technical proficiencies, operations and, in particular, the conditioning of sources,” said Nikom Prasertchiewchan, a TINT manager. Preparation of DSRS packages for domestic transport of sources, characterization of devices, and dismantling and conditioning of sources were addressed during the review.

There are thousands of different models of gauges, devices and machines containing radioactive sources, and sometimes the information for a device or source is missing. “Documentation, like device description or a source certificate, can get lost after years or even decades of use,” said Juan Carlos Benitez Navarro, Senior Technical Expert (DSRS) at the IAEA. “Experienced operators handling DSRS can identify and handle unknown sources and devices.” If a device is damaged or corroded, there also may be a risk of contamination. Experts need to have a deep knowledge of DSRS, as well as experience working with radioactive sources, to be able to remove, characterize and correctly package them.

TINT built a dedicated DSRS storage facility in 2013, which operates under a strict quality management system. In 2020, TINT redesigned its inventory system. Following the peer review, the team concluded that TINT’s system is comprehensive, providing source details and allowing full tracking of a source’s origin, condition and location in the facility.

“TINT has reached an impressive level of accomplishment, and its capacities and capabilities continue to expand,” said Zakaria, who served as the IAEA’s lead on the mission. “TINT has absorbed the know-how and the experience of the various technical assistance missions rendered by the IAEA and greatly improved the management of DSRS. These impressive achievements should chart the way forward for collaboration. It’s a great start to this new service.”

The DSRS TeC review team in Bangkok comprised four experts from Philippines and Serbia, and two IAEA staff members. While led by IAEA experts, DSRS TeC encourages not only organizations with well-equipped facilities and personnel to sign up to provide DSRS technical expertise, but also organizations wishing to strengthen existing capacity. “The overall aim of DSRS TeC is to strengthen DSRS management practices and form sustainable support in the long run,” Zakaria said.

Morocco’s National Centre for Energy and Nuclear Science and Technology (CNESTEN) hosted a pilot DSRS TeC mission in May 2022, and the IAEA officially launched the peer review service during the 66th IAEA General Conference in September 2022.

Learn more about the IAEA’s review missions and advisory services.

The inaugural DSRS TeC mission took place in Bangkok at the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT), from 18 to 21 July. (Photo: TINT)

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