Strengthening Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources

IAEA Organizes Hands-On Training in Conditioning Disused Radioactive Sources

Participants at an IAEA training course in Pretoria, South Africa, gets hands-on training in conditioning Category 1 and 2 disused sealed radioactive sources using a mobile hot cell unit. (Photo: G. Liebenberg/NECSA) 

In cooperation with the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), the IAEA recently organized an interregional training course in Pretoria, South Africa, to provide participants with hands-on training in conditioning Category 1 and 2 disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS). Held from 8 to 12 September 2014, the event was organized as part of the technical cooperation project INT/9/176, entitled Strengthening Cradle-to-grave Control of Radioactive Sources in the Mediterranean Region.

Sixteen trainees from eleven countries in Africa, Asia and Europe had the unique opportunity to witness and participate in DSRS conditioning operations using a Mobile Hot Cell (MHC) stationed at NECSA's premises. The INT9176 project technical officer, with the support of two international experts and specialized staff of NECSA, conducted the training.

The five-day training included lectures on the management of high-activity sources delivered by top-notch international experts. This was followed by an introduction to the working procedures of the MHC. Hands-on training in the use of the MHC and classroom exercises rounded off the training programme.

Group work was an important component of the hands-on training. Participants were divided into groups and each group was asked to conduct a case study and present its problem-solving strategy to the other groups. Afterwards, participants were asked to present the Category 1 and 2 inventories in their countries, and their plans to deal with these legacy sources. All participants then returned to the MHC for the final welding of the capsules that were prepared during the previous days. A final wrap-up session identified the needs of those countries dealing with high-activity sources, as well as recommendations for a subsequent action plan.

The successful organization of the training event in Pretoria is a major achievement and milestone in the work plan of the project. It provided a ground breaking opportunity for IAEA Member States to acquire cutting-edge theoretical and practical knowledge in the use of MHC, in order to condition and properly isolate high-activity radioactive sources from the environment and secure them against loss and theft.

Furthermore, this activity builds on another on-going work of the IAEA to upgrade the MHC to facilitate direct borehole disposal of sealed radioactive sources, also known as the BOSS methodology.

Building Capacities in Member States

The IAEA's Technical Cooperation Project INT/9/176 aims to enhance its Member States' capabilities to establish and sustain the safe and secure management of radioactive sources at all stages, including conditioning, storage and disposal of DSRS. The project is implemented by the IAEA and co-funded by the European Union, Spain and the USA.

Since 2012, a wide range of technology transfer activities have been implemented to enhance capacities of participating countries to establish and implement policy and strategy, upgrade radioactive waste management system and procedures, enhance regulatory frameworks, and build capacities 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 interested parties among the countries of the Mediterranean region and beyond.


The MHC is a shielded radiation chamber, which was manufactured by NECSA in 2007 following an IAEA design. The original design of the device was the first of its kind in the world; two iterative models have since then been developed.

The purpose of the MHC is to facilitate direct recovery, manipulation, and conditioning of high-activity sources (Categories 1 and 2) in secure and safe 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 MHC has already been used to condition sources in Sudan, Tanzania, Uruguay, the Philippines and Costa Rica.

Last update: 24 February 2016