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Various Approaches Showcased for the Safe and Secure Management of Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources


IAEA experts demonstrate safe handling of disused sealed radioactive sources (with mock objects) at the 62nd IAEA General Conference. (Photo: F. Nassif/IAEA)

Radioactive sources are used in many areas, ranging from medical to industrial sectors. Each country is responsible for managing radioactive sources safely and securely, even after they have served their useful purpose. While limited resources may pose challenges in implementing some of the available management options, there is a wide range of solutions that have been successfully implemented for the safe and secure management of disused sources, heard participants at a side event of the IAEA’s 62nd General Conference yesterday.

“Learning about how different technologies for the management of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) are used in different national settings and conditions, what works and what doesn’t, is one of the best ways to improve their implementation all over the world,” said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.

Several countries presented various approaches they are implementing or intend to implement, and shared the results achieved and lessons learned. These included borehole disposal, a concept whose development was coordinated by the IAEA with contributions from several Member States, which provides a practical and sustainable solution for safe, secure and permanent disposal. Another option, the mobile tool kit facility – also developed with IAEA assistance – offers all the necessary tools for safe and secure conditioning of sources, and their preparation for disposal. It is in the final stages of commissioning and is expected to be in use by the end of the year.

The development of the kit has been funded by Canada, which also provides funding for the removal of DSRS from several countries and for the IAEA’s efforts to provide a long term, secure and cost-effective solution for countries with limited quantities of high activity disused sources.

“Securing high activity disused sealed radioactive sources is a centrepiece of Canada’s work to strengthen nuclear security worldwide and to reduce the threat posed by such material falling into the hands of terrorists,” said Nathalie Semblat, Deputy Director and Senior Program Manager at Global Affairs Canada. Several countries shared their experience in receiving training on conditioning of low activity disused sources and gaining the regulator’s authorization to perform these activities, as well as their experience in source removal.

In addition, the publication of the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and especially its new Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources, the introduction of initiatives to support regional capabilities and ongoing support of repatriation and recycling have all increased the Member States’ ability and capacity to safely and securely manage and control disused sources.

The IAEA assists its Member States to implement practical, safe and secure management of DSRS and supports the development of technologies for recovering, conditioning, storing and disposing of radioactive sources. It improves national capabilities for DSRS management, by advising and providing training on the appropriate regulation and management of radioactive waste. As part of this the IAEA maintains an eLearning platform on spent fuel and radioactive waste management, decommissioning and environmental remediation, which includes modules on management of disused sealed radioactive sources.

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